A child care centre in our previous town, Whangarei, has caused an uproar by banishing an HIV+ child from its enrolments. The outcry in New Zealand in the past 48 hours has been enormous, with the Human Rights Commission stating that the child’s family have a clear basis for complaint. The child care centre took the action after a group of some twenty parents threatened to boycott the centre.
In 1986 I was proud of New Zealand when, at the height of the HIV-Aids hysteria, it opened its arms to receive Eve van Grafhorst and her family following the refusal of a Kincumber (NSW) pre-school to permit her to enrol. This is the era in which Aids paranoia was out of control, still seen as a ‘gay disease’, still seen as a basis for hatred and vilification.
Although I never met Eve (she died in 1993 after becoming something of a hero in New Zealand) I came to know a wonderful group of people who knew her well and were deeply touched by her life. I was a part of the Northland Aids Network, and although Eve’s first move to New Zealand was to another region (Hawkes Bay) she saw out her tiny-enormous life in Northland. I was proud to be a part of that network—some straight, some gay, some Christian, most not—and proud to be a small part of a movement of compassion and care.
Sadly compassion and decency are often only skin deep. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann (my favourite, cited elsewhere in this pew sheet) learned that with great sorrow as he watched his beloved German people, including most of the Christian community, slide into racial hatred. The bitter blood-letting of Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s demonstrated that faith was often more shallow than racial hatred, as Christians turned on each other (in an area that was statistically one of the most Christian regions on earth). These will not be the last occasions of betrayal of our faith. Who knows? You or I might be numbered amongst those whose faith flows too shallow in our veins.
Here’s hoping the people of Whangarei and New Zealand see sense—and the Christians speak out. As one commentator said, all we have at the moment is a sad and lonely boy. That is not gospel.
έ̉ν Χριστω̣̃ – (Fr) Michael