General Conference Vice-president Pardon Mwansa gives a great example of graceful, pragmatic thinking on Adventist work on the HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.
I met him briefly at a conference in Silver Spring and found him to be a very thoughtful leader. For example, see this terrific exchange on AIDS prevention in a longer interview conducted by Ansel Oliver at the Adventist News Network:
ANN: What about prevention?
Mwansa: Prevention is extremely critical. With due respect to all ideals, I tend to [side with] people who are practical -- meaning: this world is not full of people who read the book of Romans and the book of Genesis and Luke. This world has people who watch television and listen to music that doesn't teach them about Christ. And such people, the first thing when they are confronted with a situation in which they can contract AIDS, they don't think about a statement in Luke chapter four. They think about their desires and feelings. So I always say, when it comes to prevention we should cast as many nets as we can ... with no exclusions.
ANN: What nets are we not casting out that we could?
Mwansa: For example, I've heard church, religious people say to teach people to change their behavior and [that using condoms] is wrong. That's only so if a person thinks about right and wrong. The truth is this world does not think about right and wrong. So when I say cast the net as wide as we can, basically it's [to] use everything we can to save anybody who needs to be saved.
ANN: You said in previous interviews that you address this issue with your own children about the choices they're free to make. Would you advocate a "casting all nets" approach for them?
Mwansa: I talk to them about choices very, very strongly. I say to myself, if I have talked with them about choices and they are in a situation in which they failed to make the right choice, I would still want them to use something that would prevent them from contracting HIV/AIDS. That's not to say I don't believe in teaching, it's just that I want to prevent the worst disaster that can come. And, to be on a practical platform, people in the church are not beyond sin. Even people in the church do sometimes lose grip on the "thus sayeth the Lord." And when people lose grip, I think wisdom calls for us to still save them from the disasters and consequences of behavior by any lesser evils available.
ANN: You've said AIDS still carries a stigma in some parts of the world. How can that be overcome?
Mwansa: Sometimes only when it is in their house. You see, it's one thing to have an HIV/AIDS patient in the hospital. It's another development to have it in their home. When a person with AIDS is in your house, you don't quickly see an immoral person, even if they were immoral, by the way. You are likely to see a child, a brother, a sister who needs help. I think that we need to operate on a template of care rather than judgment.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/698