Since the Covid pandemic began, we’ve experienced Sunday Mass cancellations whenever new cases spiked. This has impacted activities in my ministry because most of them have been integrated with Masses to be able to reach out to as many parish communities as we can. These restrictions posed a challenge to adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic to continue our education campaign for migrant communities. This has led me to try out new activities using social media.
During the initial stages of conceptualizing and planning, I had moments when I was filled with uncertainties of how these will be received and questioning whether such efforts will bear fruit. But I try to keep myself grounded by reminding myself that I can only do the best I can with the resources I have and offer a prayer to God to prepare and open the minds and hearts of the communities I hope to reach.
While we were preparing materials for one of the activities, I remembered one conversation I had with a volunteer which helped to silence some of my doubts. She shared about her friend whom she recently found out is HIV positive through social media. When I asked if she has talked to her friend since finding out, she admitted she was hesitant to do so. Our conversation led to talking more about the illness and, to alleviate her fears and concerns, ways of how the virus is transmitted. I shared how it is one of my hopes that our activities may be able to reach out to people living with HIV through social media to let them know that they are not alone.
I was fortunate to have the continued support of fellow missionaries and lay leaders, people whom I have collaborated with for many years. Together, we were able to launch community prayers online for the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial for two consecutive years.
This annual event is much more than just a memorial. It aims to raise social awareness about HIV and AIDS. With almost 38 million people living with HIV today, the AIDS Candlelight Memorial “serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.” More so now as we are facing a prevention crisis because according to the UNAIDS2, “the progress in the reduction of new HIV infections is slowing. If current trends continue, 1.2 million people will be newly infected with HIV in 2025 — three times more than the 2025 global target of 370,000 new infections.”
With the new activities we launched in the past years, I was deeply moved seeing hundreds of people from different communities engaging in our online campaign. With God’s grace, we were able to reach people beyond the scope of our usual on-site activities. I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire others to spread messages of hope to those we encounter, be it in our personal or online communities, as we continue to fight HIV-related stigma, until we find a cure to end this illness once and for all.
Columban lay missionary Jao Resari lives and works in Taiwan.