The American musical group The Eagles recently recorded a haunting song titled “Hole In The World.” The chorus cries out in lament:
There’s a hole
in the world tonight,
There’s a cloud
of fear and sorrow,
There’s a hole
in the world tonight—
Don’t let there be a hole
in the world tomorrow.
To my knowledge, the songwriters did not have the AIDS crisis in mind when they put those words to music—but they could have. Intentionally or unintentionally, the heartcry of that song begins to capture the pain and the massive impact of HIV and AIDS—a “cloud of fear and sorrow” that shrouds much of our world and calls out to us for a response.
The international threat of HIV and AIDS is growing daily:
• It’s a threat that’s invisible—until you are faced with its devastating results.
• It’s a threat that is totally indiscriminate—making its claims on people of every nationality, ethnic group, and religion.
• It’s a threat that crosses political, geographic, social, and economic barriers
. • It’s a threat of a deadly disease that has grown over the last 20 years to a point of global crisis.
When I traveled through West Africa several years ago, I was stunned by the almost ever-present nature of two things: billboards for Coca Cola and billboards warning about the spread of AIDS.
The contrast could not have been more striking. On the one hand, I saw a lighthearted call to the simple pleasures of life. But on the other hand was the somber warning of a disease so deadly that the worldwide medical community has struggled to find a defense against this unseen enemy— let alone a full and complete cure.
In such times of tragedy, people scramble for answers. Those who are infected with AIDS and in the grasp of its destructive force may ask the most personal and fearful of questions as they try to understand, “Why me?” Their loved ones, friends, and the world around them may wonder the same. Eventually, however, we all come to the table with questions that address the larger, more intimate life issues:
• Why is this happening?
• Where is God in the face of all this suffering?
• Where can our loved ones turn for help?
• What will happen if a cure is not found?
These questions point to the overriding issues of hope and compassion: What hope is there for people with AIDS and for their loved ones? How do the people of God respond with love and compassion to this “hole in the world,” which has been left behind by the millions lost to this “cloud of fear and sorrow”?