Listening. And Then Listening Some More.

Adwoa Afreh (Twitter: @Afresh_handle); ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission Alumni – Southern Africa

Earlier this week, I arrived back in South Africa, a familiar place, a humbling place and forever a teaching place. Being in this space for the 21st International AIDS Conference is strengthening. The truth telling that I have witnessed has been the highlight of my time here. I applaud this conference for creating spaces for various organizations and movements to stand in their truth and call upon more allies to stand in solidarity with them. During my time here, many panelists and speakers have advocated for vulnerable and stigmatized groups like sex workers, young children, LGBTQI, gender based violence victims etc., to be invited at the conversation table regarding the eradication of HIV.

In these past days I’ve been spending time listening and listening and listening some more to sex workers, interfaith leaders, pharmaceutical representatives, activists, and conference goers. It seems like this 2030 goal is what most people have been speaking of the most. The goal being ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the year 2030. Realistic? Possibly. Is the work going to be difficult? Most definitely. Nonetheless, I will be honest and say that I have a few doubts about that goal date.

Continue reading “Listening. And Then Listening Some More.”


Jesus, Politics and the Praxis of Protest

Peter Severson (Twitter: @lutheranAdvoCO); Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Colorado

Being in the city of Durban for this 21st International AIDS Conference is being in the center of a roiling cauldron. This event brings together a huge and complex and disparate group of people whose focus is supporting individuals with HIV and working to prevent the spread of the disease. The presence of many high-level world leaders, from heads-of-state and diplomats to United Nations officials and world agency leaders, gives all attendees a higher level of access than usual to key decision makers. As a result, activist actions and protests have been a part of the proceedings from the beginning, as people agitate for change.

One of those moments happened on Tuesday afternoon, during an otherwise quiet afternoon hour of downtime for me. I was outside on the conference center plaza, having a snack with an acquaintance of mine from college, when suddenly a knot of people formed inside and began chanting. Curious, I walked inside to see what was happening. I discovered a mass of people surrounding a man in a suit who had just come out of a session. The protesters were holding signs that said “Thank you,” along with drawings of pills and medicine, while the man in the suit looked uncomfortable but was evidently trying to listen to some of the protesters ask him questions. Continue reading “Jesus, Politics and the Praxis of Protest”