"Remove The Harm, Lord of Men, and Give Healing"
In the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya, African Catholic and Sunni Muslim leaders working in the field of healthcare for those living with HIV and AIDS are faced with a unique challenge. On the one hand, they are called to attend to the spiritual well-being of the infected individual; and on the other hand, they are increasingly charged with serving as the stewards of the physical bodies of those negatively affected by such a physiologically debilitating and social stigmatized disease through certain identifiable inter-religious traditions common to both faiths. I witnessed this development firsthand while conducting fieldwork in Nairobi, interviewing Muslim and Catholic leaders working in three areas—HIV and AIDS prevention, education, and de-stigmatization. As they pertain to the common good of both religious traditions, these recorded observations and accounts help to illustrate that religious officials from within African Catholicism and Sunni Islam attempt to provide the common inter-religious traditions of mercy, hospitality, and justice in a holistic manner for those living with the virus in the city. The dissertation proceeds in the following way. The initial chapter offers an overview of the African Catholic response to the AIDS epidemic in Nairobi, Kenya. Specifically, it identifies that Catholic leaders have historically faced both a crisis and a kairos moment—or an opportunity to make real God’s presence in the lives of those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS—in practically facing the epidemic in Kenya. Chapter two relies heavily on this structure to provide an overview of the Muslim response to the epidemic in a similar way, where chapter three offers an analysis of the theological traditions common to both faiths: in the strategic area of prevention, leaders of both religions are motivated by mercy; in the area of education, they are motivated by hospitality; and in the area of de-stigmatization, they are motivated by justice. Chapter four offers an examination of remaining questions and issues pertaining to the epidemic in Kenya in relation to matters of sexuality, proposing that the religious strategic initiatives still must confront the troubling topics of sexuality in general, gender roles, and condom use as officials from both religions continue to respond to the AIDS epidemic both individually and collectively in Nairobi.