Items such as rosaries and candles made by people living with HIV and AIDS were on sale at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the World AIDS Day Mass.

“Following the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can we be compassionate in how we treat our brothers and sisters?” asked Fr Kenson Koh.

He was speaking at this year’s World AIDS Day Mass held at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

About 1,500 people attended the Mass on Nov 26.

The annual event is organised by Catholic AIDS Response Effort (CARE), a Catholic charity operating under the umbrella of Caritas Singapore. It provides support to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Singapore and runs a shelter for men with HIV/AIDS who are rejected by their families and are homeless.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus walks in front of His flock, leading by example, said Fr Kenson, adding that Jesus was loving and compassionate to sinners such as prostitutes, and those who were rude to Him, he said.

Fr Kenson, spiritual director of CARE, related his own experience with discrimination when he was in Rome. It was the year when SARS hit Singapore and other parts of Asia.

He shared how he felt alienated when people avoided him on the streets because he was Asian. However, he added that what he experienced was nothing compared to the discrimination felt by PLWHAs because of the social stigma surrounding the disease.

Fr Kenson also recounted St John Paul II’s act of compassion when he hugged a five-year-old AIDS patient during his visit to San Francisco in 1987.

His hug sent a very strong message of love and compassion to the world. He followed the footsteps of Jesus. Are we ready to do the same? asked Fr Kenson.

He urged the congregation to be more accepting of PLWHAs who are rejected by society, and help them lead dignified
lives.

“Even if we are unable to make time for them through volunteering, we can still show that we care for them by supporting them in various ways. We can pray for them. We can also buy the products handmade by them, not so much to raise funds but more to show them the worth of their work,” said Fr Kenson.

He also reminded participants, “Take time to follow Jesus. Pray for the grace to do what you can for the least. For what you do for the least of His brothers, you do it to Him.”

Fr Kenson Koh urged participants to be more accepting of those living with HIV/AIDS who are rejected by society and help them lead dignified lives.

After Mass, there was a display of items made by residents of the CARE shelter. Many people were seen buying rosaries, crucifixes and candles to show their support.

A parishioner, Martina, said she was touched by the plight of people with AIDS and was grateful that CARE was providing assistance and support for them.

The CARE website is http://www.care.org.sg/

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