I get moved by stats more than individual stories. I’m kind of weird that way—I care about the big picture and the collection of little stories that come together to tell a bigger story. Two stats opened my eyes and put my faith into action. The first, that one in 20 children in sub-Saharan Africa were orphaned because of AIDS. The second, that only 3 percent of evangelical Christians in America actually cared and that 52 percent said they weren’t willing to do anything about it. World Vision President Rich Stearns sums this up as “the hole in our gospel.” This certainly revealed the hole in my gospel.
Before I heard those two unbelievable stats, I thought what many other Christians thought: if you had AIDS, you probably deserved it. In his new book, Rich explains how “a G-rated ministry took on an R-rated issue.” It was a difficult task. In the Church’s zealousness to defend moral values, we “judgmentally withheld our compassion.” When 15 million were orphaned as a result, we still did nothing.
We lost our way
As seen throughout Scripture and history, God’s followers forgot what our faith was all about, the grace that God has shown each of us and that His blessings are given so that we may bless others. But when we aid workers were watching 50 years’ worth of work being undone in sub-Saharan Africa, we knew we had to do something—and we knew that the Church was called to see the hole in our gospel and respond differently.
A lot has changed since then
The Church has begun to wake up, repent and mobilize. And hopefully, a generation of us are learning what our faith says about justice! But we definitely aren’t done yet. Acting on AIDS is still important. As our activism opens a new chapter, it is not to forget the millions of children orphaned because of AIDS—but to take the lessons we have learned and apply it to how we understand our faith and how we respond to all issues of poverty and injustice.
After 25 years, lives are still on the line. Our voices have made a difference. Now we are asking Congress to help prevent the mother-to-child prevention of HIV.
Here is how you can take action on this World AIDS Day:
1. Put together a Lives are on the Line display on your campus. We have free resources that you can use to remind your campus that AIDS is still with us, to share how countries around the world are being affected, and to put a face to the statistics. Sign up here.
2. Pray and advocate. Mobilize students on your campus to call their members of Congress. Just a few calls will make AIDS funding a priority. Tell Congress to fulfill its commitments and help prevent mother-to-child transmission. Advocate here and sign up for the Lives are on the Line mobilization guide.
3. Recruit 50 students on your campus to join ACT:S, a network of students committed to exploring what our faith says about poverty and injustice by using creative activism to bring issues to life and chance hearts.
James Pedrick is World Vision’s Senior Advocacy Associate and co-founder of Acting on AIDS.