Memories of AIDS : a critical evaluation of Natal clerics' reflections on their AIDS experiences between 1987 and 1990
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The interface between apartheid and Aids in the unique South African context between 1987 and 1990 is particularly striking. Natal was such a volatile ground, one rocked by political violence and threatened by a world epidemic. The Natal clerics’ accounts differ widely in their reflection on the Aids disease. They use different philosophical frameworks to interpret the response of the ecumenical churches to the unfolding world epidemic. Doctor Sol Jacob, an Indian minister who served in “Black Methodism” and belonged to the “Black Consciousness Movement”, witnessed a racial church. Professor Vic Bredencamp, a white minister who served in “White Methodism”, witnessed a judgemental church, one that propagated a punitive theology as far as Aids was concerned. Professor Ronald Nicolson, a white Anglican minister, perceived paralysis ignorance in the church over the disease. Consequently, he only witnessed an ignorant church. The Catholic priest, Father Paul Decock, who was himself engaged in Aids activism, witnessed an active church. The four differ in their accounts of not only how the church responded to the pandemic but also in their reasons as to why the churches took particular positions toward HIV and Aids. Nonetheless, they agree that the churches lacked the prophetic foresight fundamental to warning the community of an imminent catastrophe. This was caused by factors such as the inverted priorities of the churches, unfamiliarity with the Aids issue, and 1 This article is based on an MTh dissertation submitted for examination in 2006 under the supervision of Professor Philippe Denis of the Department of History of Christianity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The same paper was presented at he Church History Society of Southern Africa’s history congress in January 16 2007. Stephen Joshua the theological bankruptcy of the day. By and large, their historical reflections on Aids are circumstanced by the philosophical frameworks of the interviewees.