Reports in this newspaper and elsewhere indicate that AIDS is encircling the earth, widening its reach and increasing its toll.
UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS/HIV, reports, "The AIDS epidemic claimed more than 3 million lives in 2002, and an estimated 5 million people acquired the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 2002 - bringing to 42 million the number of people globally living with the virus."
The social impact is huge. "Now, in the year 2002, it is known from experience that AIDS can devastate whole regions, knock decades off national development, widen the gulf between rich and poor nations and push already-stigmatized groups closer to the margins of society," writes AVERT, an international AIDS/HIV charity involved in AIDS and HIV prevention.
Caring about humanity involves caring about AIDS. And caring must involve action. Action can mean charity, such as contributing to programs to teach millions how to avoid the disease and stop its spread.
Action can also mean a more active and direct individual intervention, through prayer. Millions of people worldwide, of many religions and belief systems, join in this kind of aid.
A very potent approach to prayer begins with God and what must be true about the male and female whom, according to the first chapter of the Bible, He made in His image and likeness.
In an "image and likeness" relationship, health is as natural and everlasting in us as in God.
But another view says that men and women can lose their health because of sin. Many people - consciously or not - view AIDS as a punishment imposed by God on humanity for sensualism, immorality, and promiscuous sexual behavior. If someone is guilty, this view would sanction punishment by death.
There are interesting parallels in the Bible story of Daniel, whose meteoric rise in the government of King Darius angered his peers. Their resentment was so strong that they resolved to have him sentenced to death.
His sterling behavior made this difficult, but they hatched a plan: Turn his love of God into a punishable offense. To achieve this, they persuaded Darius to decree that all prayers be directed toward the king alone.
When Daniel persisted in praying to God, he was judged guilty and thrown into the lions' den. But God protected him, and the lions left him untouched. The next morning, Daniel explained to Darius, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me" (Dan. 6:22).
According to the "image and likeness" model in Genesis 1, every man and woman is as innocent as God, and therefore as innocent as Daniel. Created by God, divine Love, he and she could never be anything but pure expressions of Love at its finest - love that is infinitely selfless, that uplifts all it touches, that gives infinite blessings through every contact. To live our lives as the expression of this Love is our perpetual and highest purpose.
This reality has been twisted, even as Daniel's obedience to God was twisted. Man stands accused of turning love into an expression of low, selfish, physical instincts - a crime punishable by death through AIDS.
Praying about this scourge comes to humanity's defense. In prayer, we can find all of humanity innocent and repeal the terrible sentence of AIDS, as happens in Revelation 12, when Michael and his angels overcome the dragon called Satan: "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."
To find all of humanity innocent through prayer reveals a vision - the divine judgment that closes Genesis 1: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."
Praying this way about AIDS reinforces the instinct, desire, and ability - native in every individual - to love as God loves. This kind of prayer supports the ability of every individual to make right choices in behavior - choices that lead away from physical gratification and promiscuity, toward love that is selfless and pure.
This kind of prayer is true activism - siding with the angels in a stand for innocence that overturns the unjust sentence of AIDS.