Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a Ugandan priest and a long-standing friend of STRATEGIES FOR HOPE, has been awarded the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on November 9th, Archbishop Rowan Williams paid tribute to Canon Gideon for helping African communities respond positively to the challenges of HIV and AIDS.
In 1995 Canon Gideon became the first African religious leader to openly declare his HIV-positive status. The Archbishop called Canon Gideon “a beacon of hope whose energy and joy have been an inspiration to be alongside”.
A theologian, pastor, teacher and activist, Canon Gideon has transformed the HIV response of churches in the Anglican communion, and influenced many other faith communities throughout Africa and around the world.
The Archbishop said that Canon Gideon’s work has brought hope and galvanized action in communities through information, innovative prevention strategies, care and support. He has focused tirelessly on “ending denial, misinformation, stigma and discrimination on HIV within and beyond the Church”.
“Few individuals,” he said, “have taken so many risks and ventured so far beyond their own faith to help those living with HIV and AIDS.”
The charismatic Canon Gideon has played a pivotal role in several faith-based organisations, including the Church of Uganda, Christian Aid, World Vision International, and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
He has also spoken at special United Nations conferences, and co-founded the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+).
“Throughout this work,” said the Archbishop, “he has focused on the unique value of each human being in the sight of God”.
Accepting the award, Canon Gideon said: “I’m accepting this cross not just for myself, but on behalf of all the people who have supported me, nursed me, and inspired me to do more and better.”
The STRATEGIES FOR HOPE film, What Can I do?, features the life and ministry of Canon Gideon Byamugisha. Over 30,000 copies of this film, in 12 languages, have been distributed so far.
See ... What Can I Do?