Title of Book: The Fight against HIV and AIDS: A Call for New Approaches to Catechesis and Small Christian Communities
Author: Mukunzu Harrison Mativo
P.O Box 28000222
Uplands, Nairobi, Kenya
Cell: + 254 (0) 771163070: email@example.com
Number of pages: 190
Price: KSHs. 500 (US $5)
Contact: Father Joseph Healey, Maryknoll House, Nairobi, Kenya
Mukunzu Harrison Mativo, Mombasa, Kenya
Reviewer: Francis Njuguna
There might be no quick link between the Catholic Church’s teaching on catechesis, the church’s pastoral program of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and the church’s pastoral mission in the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
But a survey carried out on the issue — the Catholic Church and her pastoral mission in the pandemic in the Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa — has now been turned into a book and strongly advocates this link. It therefore strongly recommends that a proper teaching of the church’s catechesis as well as a strong incorporation of SCCs in the church’s battle against the HIVAIDS pandemic should be prioritized in the church’s mission on the pandemic.
“This book is the product of a detailed research study which investigated the problem of HIVAIDS in the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa and proposed new approaches to fight the pandemic, an approach founded on catechesis and Small Christian Communities (SCCs),” the survey researcher, Mukunzu Harrison Mativo explains (page 15). This research, according to this new book, affirms that the present catechism does not fully address the modern challenges of HIVAIDS. Giving catechetical instructions on prayers alone is not enough, the new book emphasizes, stressing that the social life of the faithful must be addressed. “Further, we also established that while commendable, the projects established by the Archdiocese of Mombasa on HIV/AIDS do not address, from the pastoral perspective, the real challenges the disease poses,” this study found it out. In addition, SCCs were involved in these projects without proper preparations on how to tackle them according to this new book, while stressing that, as a result, the projects provide only social assistance to patients and families.
The new book proposes a new approach to catechesis, first by insisting on catechists who are well-trained in theology and in dealing with the modern challenges of HIVAIDS (page 16).
With well-trained catechists in place, children in catechetical classes will be formed well so that besides prayers, they will be made aware of HIV/AIDS and the challenges it poses to the broad social spectrum of their lives, the new book recommends. “Secondly, the book is a useful resource to members of SCCs for it provides training on catechesis and the challenges of SCCs,” the new book underlines stressing that, “Empowering SCCs will render them effective in fighting new HIV infections and guarantee good care to both the infected and affected.” Cumulatively, having catechumens who are properly trained and informed by catechists on HIVAIDS and skilled members of SCCs will lower HIV prevalence in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, the new book emphasizes (page 16).
The new book quotes Father Joseph Healey, MM, a renowned SCC program promoter in AMECEA region on some historical facts about the SCC program in Africa. “SCCs were started in sub-Saharan Africa. The very first Small Christian Communities in Africa started in Zaire (currently Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC) in 1961, the very year that AMECEA came into being. But Zaire referred to them as Living Ecclesial Communities which means Basic Living Communities of the church,” he explains (page 29). He further explains, “Although 1973 and 1976 are considered the official starting point of SCCs in the AMECEA countries, the seeds were sown much earlier.” It is true that the seeds might have been sown much earlier because some countries like Tanzania had their system of Ujamaa (started by the late President Julius Nyerere in the late 1960s), according to Father Healey. The first country in the AMECEA region to practice SCCs was Tanzania. Other countries like Kenya started their own SCCs in the late 1970s, he further explains.
The new book tackles the topic under five specific chapters, namely: The Context of Mombasa; HIVAIDS: Origin, Transmission, and Spread; Social Context and Pastoral Analysis of the Challenges of HIVAIDS in the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa; Theological Reflections on HIVAIDS and Small Christian Communities; and Pastoral Recommendations and Suggestions.
The new book recommends, among other things:
— that the Catholic Church should provide strong catechesis to SCCs and in the parishes about good African values cultures in the AMECEA region and then catechize the people accordingly.
— an evaluation of the work done by the Catholic Church in the fight against HIVAIDS. This evaluation should begin at the SCCs level and then move to the parish, deanery and diocese.
— the Catholic Church should make better use of youth to boost its fight against HIVAIDS through the new approaches to catechesis and SCCs.
— formation of Youth SCCs and their involvement in areas such as visiting the persons living with HIV/AIDS.
— the church should make sure that people living with HIV/AIDS are well cared for through the SCCs, both in prayer and materially.
 Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa. It comprises nine regional countries of the Eastern Africa region, namely: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.