The doctrine of social holiness in the Free Methodist Church, DRC : implications for the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
The devastating consequences of the HIV and AIDS epidemic are endangering many lives and shaking weak economies of the Sub-Sahara Africa. The Church of Christ in Africa has decided to join hands with other players who are seeking appropriate responses to the epidemic. The Church has an important role of providing theological understanding upon which the response should be grounded. This study explores how the Free Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo could participate in the alleviation of suffering and loss due to the HIV epidemic in the region of Kivu. The eastern part of DRC, especially the Kivu region, has experienced a severe outbreak of HIV-related diseases as the aftermath of the six-year war (1996-2002) that has destroyed economic and medical infrastructures in the territory. The recent crisis is the result of rape, which was used as a cheap weapon of war and the impoverishment of the community due to political and economic instability in the area. This study therefore draws the attention of the Free Methodist Church to the urgent need of providing care to many poor people suffering from HIV-related diseases who are unable to access treatment or purchase medicines. It suggests that the doctrine of social holiness that has been the driving force behind the involvement of the Free Methodist Church in providing social services to poor community could be used as a theological framework for its intervention. The doctrine of social holiness is expressed in extending God's love and mercy to people who live in misery and marginalized, My argument is that, in the case of the Kivu region, the doctrine of social holiness could motivate the Free Methodist Church to meet the needs of those living with HIV and AIDS. As a matter of emergency the focus could be put on providing physical and spiritual care, and also care with justice. The doctrine of social holiness could be used to mobilize the community to provide care for the needy by sharing the theological insights about human sexuality, God's love, stewardship, acceptance of the other and restoring dignity to every person created in God's image. These theological themes could be integrated in formulating a theology of HIV that could become a tool in the hands of the Free Methodist church as it ministers to people living with HIV and AIDS in Kivu. This study advocates that, even though the response of the Free Methodist Church in responding to the HIV epidemic is still timid, there are enough potentialities in the doctrine of social holiness that could be re-examined and restated in order to meet the actual needs. The doctrine of social holiness requires that every believer who had received in his/her heart the love of God by faith may share this love with others, especially with the poor and marginalized. The misery and suffering of people living with HIV and AIDS in the Kivu region presents an opportunity to the Free Methodist Church in DRC to mobilize the community towards caring for the sick. The magnitude of the epidemic requires that the Free Methodist Church uses its theological foundation as a motivating factor in networking and lobbying other stakeholders in the region and externally so that those who are abandoned without care can find care and support.