Dr Karanja Says:
Death penalty is the wrong way to go. In Norway, death penalty is prohibited and it is the policy of the government not to encourage it in other countries. In fact, death penalty is a ground for not expelling a person from Norway to a country that practices it. Mullah Krekar enjoys stay in Norway courtesy that reason only. It is not politically correct for APN therefore to advocate death penalty even in other countries. True the dilemma should be addressed but with lesser drastic measures such as life imprisonment or other harsher sentences.
Dr Karanja is reacting to APN’s story below whereby we are calling for death sentence as punishment for spreading HIV/Aids intentionally!:
Posted by africanpress on 27th December 2006
Kenyan media has reported that, “many churches are compelling couples to take HIV tests before they wed, but their members are divided as to whether this will help curb the spread of Aids or perpetuate stigma.”
This is stigmatisation, worst even to imagine. God’s people discriminating against those with the disease. It is reported that one cannot be allowed to wed unless a certificate is produced that clears one from not having the disease.
Does the church play a role of being God the creator? Such church leaders should have their registrations withdrawn by the government.
In the issue in question, the church turned away the couple during the day of the wedding because they were unable to produce a certificate.
With all the quests ready for the day, with all the expenses that has gone to the preparation of the wedding, the church did not care to help the couple.
This takes us to ask or even demand that the church leaders themselves should be tested. And I presume some of them are not as clean as they may pretend.
The couple that was turned away should sue teh church leaders for embarrassment caused and expenses lost in the whole saga.
It is reported that, “Pastors at the World Harvest International Church, Nairobi, turned away the couple on their wedding day for failing to present documents confirming that they had taken a HIV test. Pastor Moses Tumwine refused to preside over the wedding unless the couple fulfilled the church’s regulation, which demands they take the test and disclose their status.” Justifying his case the Pastor said, “We demand that Martin and Eunice be tested and we be served with a confirmatory letter to that effect,” adding that, “The church’s regulations stipulate that if one partner tests HIV positive, a wedding cannot take place. Why should we allow people to plunge into trouble? We are trying to fight the spread of Aids,” says Tumwine. “If they want us to join them in holy matrimony, they should go for the test and bring the evidence.”
This did not go down well with Martin and Eunice whose ”wedding was postponed for two weeks pending the presentation of an HIV test confirmatory certificate. The cancellation caused anger among relatives of the couple, who said they had spent a lot of resources preparing for the ceremony. They argued that the couple were mature and should be left to decide whether or not to take the test.”
The relatives of the groom castigated the church for discrimination against those who may have HIV or Aids.
The idea may be a good one from the church’s side. Maybe it is good for those who are getting married to know their status. One may be hiding the disease from the other partner.
The practice of asking for the certificates, however, should be done with care in order not to cause panic and discrimination against those who have HIV and Aids.
Those who are sick and those wnot sick are all the children of God and therefore, ”It is not fair for the church to wait until the 11th hour to cancel the ceremony. Some of us have travelled from as far as Nyeri and Murang’a,” one woman was quoted as saying.
The media has reported that, “the couple never got to the church. As they made their way to the church, the pastor called to inform them that he had suspended the wedding ceremony. The couple was told that they had two weeks to take the mandatory HIV test or forfeit wedding at the Nairobi-based church. The church is not alone in demanding HIV test certificates before performing weddings. In June last year, the Supreme Council of Muslims of Kenya said Muslims intending to marry might have to undergo the HIV tests.”
The UNAIDs program to curb HIV/Aids has done a lot but, “despite an increased commitment to fund Aids, the spread and prevalence of the disease is still high. The African Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected HIV and Aids (Anerela) attributes this to stigmatisation by the Church and society. Bishop Ephraim Adisi, a member of Anerela, says most churches have demonised Aids, calling it God’s punishment for sin. He says stigmatisation, shame and denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action are fuelling the spread of Aids. He says it is unfair for church leaders to insist on couples taking test before marriage yet they do not know their status.”
We agree with Bishop Ephraim Adisi when he says, “Church leaders are telling people to take the tests while they do not know their own status. They should lead or get out of the way.”
Testing should be voluntary, otherwise it will force people who do not want to be tested to live together and get children without getting married. The churches are against people living together and having sex before marriage, but if they insist in forced testing, they will be the one encouraging this behaviour.
Adisi says, “although many people have lost their lives due to HIV/Aids related ailments, Kenya is yet to deal decisively with the pandemic,” and goes ahead to advise, “church leaders to exercise tolerance while handling people living with Aids. He recommends greater involvement and integration of people living with Aids in policy matters from formulation to implementation level.”
The churches are in a good position to advise people on how to protect themselves, but if they use force, they will drive away the faithful from their fold because stigmatisation is so painful that the one affected feels unwanted in the society.
The media reports that, “Anerela was founded in 2002 following the realisation that stigma, shame, denial and discrimination were keeping religious leaders living with Aids away from care and support. Adisi says the insistence by some churches that couples intending to get married undertake the HIV tests is unfair. In Opportunity in Crisis, author Hanni Happonen, says Aids has not only affected society at large but has impacted on the church as well.”
Christians affected with the disease is high and the fact that they preach no sex before marriage, some practice unsafe sex. It is reported that, “Globally, 1.5 million Christians die from Aids related complications annually, translating to 4,110 cases daily. Happonnen says church leaders are in a unique position to alter the course of the epidemic. When religious leaders speak, their followers will religiously listen and follow them. He says the church is best placed to talk about Aids to the faithful. He challenges the church to perceive the disease as an opportunity to spread the word of God.”
An organisation, “The Churches United Against HIV and Aids in Southern Eastern and Africa (CUAHA) says church leaders should be at the forefront in correcting misconception, mis-action, stigma and discrimination. Ms Birgitta Rantakari, the chairperson of CUAHA, says most churches interpret Aids to be God punishment for sin. Many denominations across the world, especially Africa have distanced themselves from this proclamation of blame. Sadly, this is not a reality for many people living with Aids in the Church.”
Rantakari challenges churches to include people living with the disease in their active work in the church against practising sex before marriage.
A founding member of Ambassador for Hope, Vusi Matsebula, “a programme within CUAHA, says the world is facing crisis with millions of children and youth growing up with the trauma of having lost their parents due to Aids.”
HIV/Aids is a killer disease. All persons should engage in promoting the work that reduces the spread of the disease. In many programs on TV networks one hears people publicly saying that since they are already infected they see no reason to use a condom when having sex with other people. Some even go as far as saying they want to infect as many people as possible because they do not want to die alone. This selfish behaviour must be addressed by all countries, even if it means introducing death penalty on cases to do with HIV/ Aids in order to punish those who go around spreading the disease at will.
By Korir, African Press in Norway, APN