Even in forgotten places, there’s a touch of Christmas in the moments families share together.
Published in Bangkok Post, Sunday Spectrum, Dec. 21, 2014:
By Fr. Joe Maier
Christmas this year — the date is marked in local calendars as the fifth day of the rising of the moon in the second month of the Lunar New Year. The word Christmas is not mentioned.
Christmas here in Thailand can silently slip by, unnoticed, if you’re not alert. Our annual commercial Thai greeting cards sold in the shops do not mention the words Merry Christmas, only Happy New Year. Christmas day this year, Thursday, is an ordinary weekday: school for the kids, banks, post offices and government offices all open, an ordinary night to butcher pigs in the slaughterhouse. The usual television soap shows.
Maybe there will be a short mention on the evening news. Officially, Christmas doesn’t exist. That’s why it’s so important, vital that we make the birthday of Jesus meaningful for ourselves, for our children, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian.
Greetings for Christmas. Our five- and six-year-old kids invented this glorious dance step all on their own. It’s a kind of a jump-up-and-down thing, which they do until they get tired and then collapse on the floor in laughter and giggles. And then they catch their collective breath, and do it again. They said if baby Jesus lived here at Mercy Centre with them, they’d teach him, too.
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Mercy as the leading HIV/AIDS community organization in the poorest Bangkok communities, we are still battling issues of awareness and prevention. The general populations in the poorest communities are still unaware of their rights to receive access to health care relating to AIDS. These rights include access to health checkups, blood tests, consultations, medicine, and follow-up care. Their ignorance of their rights is due mainly to the stigmatization of people living with AIDS within Thai culture and society.
This project will battle community ignorance and encourage people to learn about their HIV status. In concert with government health care centres, we will promote the VCCT program (Voluntary Counseling, Confidential Testing) – a program that will encourage every member of our communities, especially young women and teenagers, to be tested for HIV.