When I think about my time at the 2016 International AIDS Conference there are three words that summarize my experience – Faith, Justice and Action. As a young adult leader who lives and works daily towards the fight against injustice, I was extremely excited and anxious to learn from other movers and shakers who are advocating for human right and freedom for all people. I was excited to go to an unfamiliar place and grow and learn about such an epidemic that is not discussed in the many communities that I am apart of.
The week started with the EAA Interfaith Pre-Conference. At the interfaith conference there were conversations led by people who were living with the disease, people who were researchers, advocators and individuals who in some shape or form are affected by this disease. We discussed the roles that faith leaders and individuals have in the conversations about faith and sexuality. There was discussion about global prevention, treatment targets, new research, global responses to the AIDS response and funding. There was discussion about who are most affected by HIV & AIDS – the vulnerable, transgenders, gays, women between the ages of 15-25,sex workers, drug users, lesbians and youth. All of these conversations ended with charging us to respect the human rights of all people and to continue to fight for equality and continuing to respect and always live in love.
During the interfaith service there was a lighting of candles and reflection in honor of those who have died from this disease and for those who are currently living with HIV. All bodies present lighted a candle and then stuck a red ribbon on a large sheet that displayed every continent. We placed the stickers in areas that represented individuals whom we knew were living with HIV or AIDS. That moment was very emotional and powerful at the same time. It was emotional because we reflected on loved ones who have passed away from a disease that is treatable. It was also emotional for me because in the moment, I reflected on the youth and individuals who are not informed. I reflected on communities and individuals who don’t have the resources and the opportunities to even gain prevention tools, let alone speak up about their status once diagnosed. That moment was also powerful because those of us in that room and those of us who were at the conference had a responsibility to go back to our many communities and take the knowledge and information that we gained and inform others.
In Scripture there is a constant call to seek justice. I am reminded of this scripture when I think about the many injustices across the world. God instructs us to not only pray, live and teach His word but to also stand up and fight for the end of injustice as well. Having love and faith is only half of what it means to be Christian. The other half is putting our faith and love into action, by fighting for justice. Faith, justice and action go hand-in-hand.
My faith was developed because of the injustice that I experienced and witnessed as a child. We have to remember that the lack of human rights for some is a fight for us all and being at International AIDS Conference reminded of that.
Micah 6:8 says He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.