Jesus and the stigmatized : Reading the Gospel of John in a Context of HIV/AIDS-Related Stigmatization in Tanzania
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AbstractIn most cases, the reading of John’s gospel in Tanzania has been done by biblical scholars in academic contexts. This has, to a great extent, undermined the contributions of lay people from reading the gospel in their own context and experiences of life, and created a gap between lay people in parishes and theologians in the academy. Moreover, such reading has concealed the role of biblical texts towards dealing with current social problems surrounding stigmatized people, such as HIV/AIDS-related stigmatization, as seen by their own perspective.
In this study, Elia Shabani Mligo, through his field research among Peole living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Tanzania, using stigmatization as his perspective and participant-centred contextual Bible study as his method, argues that the reading of texts from the gospel of John by PLWHA in their lived experiences of stigmatization empowers them to reject stigmatization as being unjustified phenomenon. According to Mligo’s observation, the group rejects stigmatization because it does not comply with the attitude of Jesus towards groups that were stigmatized in his time. Mligo further observes that the theology emerging from the readings of stigmatized PLWHA, through their evaluation of Jesus’ attitudes and acts towards stigmatized people in the texts, challenges churches in various aspects of their obligatory mission as disciples of Jesus: healing, hospitality and caring, prophetic voices against stigmatization, and the way they teach about HIV and AIDS in relation to sexuality.
Mligo concludes that there is a need for churches to re-visit their practices towards stigmatized groups and listen to their voices. In listening to the voices of stigmatized groups, Mligo suggests that participant-centred contextual Bible study methods, similar to the one used in this study whereby stigmatized people are the primary interlocutors of the process, can be useful tools.