Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Fidele Nsengiyumva

When Fidele returned home in 2002, after 5 years as a refugee, separated from his family, his wife soon told him that she was HIV positive. He wrote:

It was sad and difficult news to accept. I went away and did not return for a week. After one week of meditation and prayer, the Holy Spirit showed me that we should begin a programme within our Church to be able to help other members and surrounding community.

In 2002 neither my wife nor I had any information on HIV and AIDS, but we benefited from the work of an American organization called World Relief that had begun to sensitize the Church about it. By then I had also been tested and found HIV positive. My wife didn't want us to talk about it, and we lived in a state of fear and shame for a whole year. For her, a Friend, responsible for the prayer group within the Evangelical Friends Church in Rwanda, the knowledge of her status was unacceptable. She saw herself as a sinner and could not move on.

Our silence only ended when I heard a representative of FWCC (Friends World Committee for Consultation) talk at great length about the terrible effects of Stigma and Discrimination, as well as its negative impact on prevention, treatment and support. After that, I broke the silence about our status and I encouraged my wife to acknowledge and accept it before her death in 2004.

It was not easy for me to begin a programme, because the authority of the church judged my propositions like a simple adventure, saying that they could not work without a budget. I didn’t give up but I continued to insist and they ended up accepting.

My wife’s death gave me the strength to work ardently to save the many lives from death by ignorance. Now I am the president of INITIATIVE OF THE FRIENDS FIGHTING HIV/AIDS called INACOS. I am also the National Coordinator of the Network of the Religious Leaders living with or Personally Affected by the HIV and AIDS, that currently including more than 193 religious leaders.

In addition, I am the Co-Clerk of the FWCC HIV AIDS and advocacy committee which was established during the triennial held Dublin/Ireland in 2008, where as one person living with HIV, I played a big role in the adoption of resolutions 21 and 22 related to HIV and AIDS in Friends Church.

These resolutions were:

For Friends churches to lead in education and understanding for stigma and discrimination defeat,
FWCC recommend that Friends acknowledge that AIDS epidemic is a world calamity and can be a barrier to peace and development;
FWCC recommend that Friends promote open discussion on issues related to sexuality, gender-based violence and intravenous drugs;

FWCC recommend that Friends promote greater involvement of people living with HIV in churches, response to the epidemic and adopt inclusive workplace policies for people living with HIV.

The plenary assembly proposed the establishment of an advocacy committee to:
Identify all activities started by Friends around the world;
Establish a connection between the advocacy committee and FWCC;

Sensitize all sections of FWCC to have the same message of hope in response to HIV and AIDS

The plenary assembly adopted this proposition and set up a committee with Fidele Nsengiyumva from Rwanda YM and Connie Archbald from Northern YM as co-clerks and Lin Mo from Norway YM as secretary.

Fidele died in May 2012.

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