Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, greets Babalwa Matikinca, an area manager for the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force. The encounter took place in the Global Village of the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)
By Paul Jeffrey
DURBAN, South Africa — At an international conference about AIDS that brought 18,000 people to this seaside city, it was the big things that usually drew attention: a plenary where the actress Charlize Theron said sexism and racism prevent us from ending AIDS, a media scrum surrounding Sir Elton John and Prince Harry as they pleaded for people to get tested, even a press conference where researchers discussed arcane vaccine trials that could change the face of the epidemic. But sometimes it’s the small events that tell a larger story.
Thabo Makgoba is the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town. He’s a rather prominent guy. But he’s fairly humble, so when he stopped by the Interfaith Networking Zone in the conference’s Global Village July 19, not many people paid attention. He chatted with folks, but then needed to leave for a press conference.
The Global Village was a wild maze of displays, booths and discussion areas sponsored by special interest groups representing all sorts of people touched by AIDS. Right across from the interfaith area was the Sex Workers Networking Zone. Archbishop Makgoba stopped there and introduced himself to the women.
Among those he greeted was Babalwa Matikinca, who works in the Eastern Cape for the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT). She told me she had been having an emotional day, and when the archbishop suddenly appeared, she started crying.
“I was so grateful. It was a blessing. I was happy. I was happy. I was happy,” she said.
Matikinca does education and helps run support groups for sex workers, and she said the church needs to cross into their world more often.
A mannequin wears a hat crafted from condoms July 20 during the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)
“Sex workers are often operating in hideaway zones, their work unknown to their family because there is a lot of stigma. They feel alone. The church should be a place where they can find comfort and support to help them cope. Just like Jesus, who, when people wanted to stone a sex worker, said that only those who hadn’t sinned could do it,” she (Read More)