“We are a people who want to live!” – This is the motto of the Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM – ‘Good Jesus’ in Kirundi), a comprehensive AIDS programme run by the Jesuit region of Rwanda-Burundi. Based in Bujumbura and run by Fr Désiré Yamuremye SJ, SYM reaches people with HIV, their families and orphans in inaccessible rural parishes around the capital.
Also in Bujumbura, the Lycée du Saint-Esprit (Holy Spirit High School) has a long-running Stop-SIDA club that strives to make students aware of the realities of the pandemic.
In Rwanda, the Christian Life Community (CLC) in Kigali has made AIDS ministry as its shared apostolic mission: this means that, since 2005, members of CLC have been reaching out to people with HIV, above all ‘accompanying’ them through a pastoral approach. Theirs was a simple mandate: Go to people with HIV, visit them, offer them your friendship, and talk to them in such a way that preserves and renews their will to live. However, when their experience revealed the urgent needs of people with HIV, the CLC group started work on a project to offer medical, psychosocial and material support too.
As in other Provinces and Regions, individual Jesuits use their talents to make their contribution to the struggle against the pandemic. Thierry Manirambona SJ is a Burundian scholastic who writes beautiful poetry and prose to highlight the life, despair and hope of people with HIV.