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CONTRIBUTOR TO STRATEGIES FOR HOPE MATERIALS

Bishop William Mchombo

Co-author of Call to Me: How the Bible speaks in the age of AIDS.

Bishop William Mchombo chaired the working group which developed 12 of the 20 Bible studies which make up CALLED TO CARE no. 7, Call to Me: How the Bible speaks in the age of AIDS.  He also drafted three of the studies.  His diocese of eastern Zambia has its administrative headquarters in the town of Chipata, but its cathedral is located 130 kilometres away, in the town of Msoro. 

Trained at theological seminaries and universities in Zambia, Uganda, South Africa and the United States, Bishop William holds several important positions within the Anglican Church in Zambia and in southern Africa.  He has also been personally affected by the HIV epidemic:

“I lost my younger brother to an HIV-related illness in 2005.  We had not sought for an HIV test until it was too late.  I was at his bedside in hospital when he passed away.  It was a painful death, as he struggled for life.  That left an indelible mark on me.

Bishop William speaks at the Call to Me workbook launch in March 2010

“Like all other sectors of society, the Church has lost many young men and women in their prime to the HIV epidemic.  As a result, many older people – mostly women – have to look after orphans.  These women can hardly provide for themselves, let alone take care of orphaned children and send them to school.  Boys end up herding cattle and girls are sent into early marriages.  We have tried to help with awareness programmes on children’s rights and help with food security, but it is a tall order.  Sometimes one feels helpless in the face of such an overwhelmingly forlorn situation.

“Our diocese has a robust HIV awareness campaign.  We have encouraged all our parishes in our diocese to run HIV awareness programmes, but they lacked the necessary training materials until the publication of CALLED TO CARE book no. 7, Call to Me: how the Bible speaks in the age of AIDS.  Our diocese developed 12 of the 20 Bible studies which make up that manual. 

“To write those Bible studies, we brought together church leaders from four denominations – Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Pentecostal.  This was in order to make the book acceptable to all church denominations.  First, we decided to follow the format of Contextual Bible Study developed in South Africa. We then sat together every day for a week, deciding on topics, developing drafts, making critiques of one anothers’ work.

Bishop William Mchombo (right) poses with Chief Msoro (left) and his wife Mary (centre) for a photo in the cathedral

“I can vouch for the fact that the Call to Me workbook has been well received by many denominations and other faith groups involved in HIV and AIDS work in eastern Zambia.  There is now less stigma and a lot more care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS. There are also fewer people claiming that AIDS is a curse from God because of sinful behaviour. The only drawback has been our inability to have translations of the book in any of our local languages.  A good number of Africans can read in their own language and can more easily assimilate thoughts and ideas in that way.  Having the workbook available in local languages would greatly accelerate its impact.

“But there is also a danger emerging from new churches led by ‘prophets’ who are urging people living with HIV and AIDS to stop taking their antiretroviral medicines and to rely on faith healing instead.  This is dangerous and is getting out of hand. The Call to Me workbook has a Bible study, with a brilliant cartoon drawing, on the subject.”

See ... Call to Me

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