Just listened to a very interesting report on BBC radio as I was driving in to the office today:

In Zambian prisons basic necessities such as soap, shampoo, toilet paper and even food are extremely scarce. As a result prisoners have begun a black market of sorts to purchase the items that they need, the main currency in this black market...sex. The major problem with this is that approximately 27% of the Zambian prison population is H.I.V. positive, a statistic that is higher than in the rest of the Zambian population.

Recently when one of Zambia's leading medical researchers did a study on the overall health of Zambia's prison population he discovered that nearly 100% of inmates admitted to exchanging sex, either due to force or willingly, for goods/food. Statistically speaking it is only a matter of time before an inmate will contract H.I.V.

One solution that has been proposed to combat the spread of H.I.V. within prison's is the distribution of condoms to the prisoners. However because homosexuality is illegal in Zambia the government will not allow this to happen. On top of the government rejection, there has been strong opposition by Christian's on moral grounds.

It was this last bit that really struck me. The question that comes to mind is this, "what is more immoral, the practice of homosexuality (for those that believe that it is a sin) or to hand a person a death sentence (H.I.V./AIDS) when it is in your power to stop it?"

Perhaps I'm just setting up a "Straw Man" but this is the way my mind thinks at times.

I'm sure there are other ways to curtail the spread of H.I.V. within Zambia's prisons other than simply distributing condoms, and I would certainly hope that the church's in Zambia are working to make this happen, although I can't speak to that.

Something to think about
One thing that becomes increasingly disturbing for many grownups is the sense that they have little control over young people. This scares adults. Adults want youth to conform to adult standards. They want kids to act responsibly. They want them to sit down and listen. They want them to hurry up and get their identities fixed and grounded. Adults want youth to have a roadmap for a secure and reasonable future, and they get rattled when they realize that most youth aren't carrying one...

Perhaps one source of these adult anxieties is the growing separation between youth and adults. For the past 40 years, economic policies, changes in social norms, and a relentless marketing strategy to create and sell to a teenage market have combined to create what sociologist Christian Smith calls a "structural disconnect" between adults and youth. This separation begins long before adolescence. Many youth spend most of their childhood segregated in daycares and schools, afternoons and evenings in front of televisions and computers, weekends hanging out with friends. By early adolescence most young people are attuned to a different reality, a different world, than adults.

The less contact adults have with young people, the more mysterious they seem. Adults can fall into the traps of projection, speculation, worry, and fearful imaginings. Congregations and church leaders find themselves relying on the media to learn about kids. They absorb stories about teenage gangs and violence. They watch videos and movies that portray youth as hormone-driven, sex-crazed nymphs. They hear news stories and government reports that talk alarmingly about "at-risk" kids. All of this becomes a filter for how young people are perceived. Adults see teenagers in baggy jeans and oversized jackets and fear they're hiding drugs or weapons. They see a group of young women in short halter tops and lipstick and worry about their sexual activity....

Sometimes adult fears about youth arise from what we do know. Adults get scared when young people reflect behaviors and attitudes we recognize. Adolescent desires for pleasure, material goods, entertainment gadgets, constant activity, sex, and mood altering substances all mirror the behavior of the adult culture - and it scares us. There is much we adults don't like about ourselves. There are mistakes parents have made and want their kids to avoid. We get frightened when youth begin to reflect the ambiguous values and conflict of the adult culture...

Maybe what's most unsettling about youth is the way in which they remind many of us of our own adolescent hearts. Young people can stir up forgotten dreams and evoke unmet longings within adults. They can unearth the contradictions between the hopeful vision of our younger selves and the mediocre and muddled reality of our adult lives. Whatever the particular cause, the truth when adults relate to teenagers out of anxiety we miss seeing them, we miss hearing them, and we lose our sense of compassion for them...

As a result most youth ministries in North America are ministries of anxiety. In fact, most Christian communities don't even consider the spiritual needs of young people until there's a critical mass of anxious adults. Look behind most youth ministry programs and you'll find pastors and church boards nervous about declining memberships, parents afraid their kids lack morals, congregations worried the Christian faith has become irrelevant to younger generations, and the persistent frustration among adults that something ('anything!") needs to be done with "those kids!"

- Mark Yaconelli "Contemplative Youth Ministry"
I was reading through one of my many books this morning and came across this prayer. I don't know why but immediately I felt like crying. There is something powerful in these words, and even more powerful in the God who responds to this cry:

Open my eyes, Lord.
Help me to see your face.
Open my eyes, Lord.
Help me to see.

Open my ears, Lord.
Help me to hear your voice.
Open my ears, Lord.
Help me to hear.

Open my heart, Lord.
Help me to love like you.
Open my heart, Lord.
Help me to Love.

I live within you.
Deep in your heart, O Love.
I live within you.
Rest now in me.