Umoja is a project of the Global Interfaith Partnership, founded in 2006 to consolidate the efforts of 10 churches and synagogues in Indianapolis that had been working independently for nearly 20 years to provide AIDS relief in western Kenya.
Those partners — United Methodist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Catholic, and Jewish — first learned about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya through medical students who trained there at an Indiana University-sponsored clinic founded by Dr. Joseph Mamlin, a member of North UMC. Alarmed by the growing crisis, he and his wife, Sara Ellen, retired to Kenya in 2000 and founded AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access To Healthcare), a comprehensive AIDS control program that today treats 55,000 patients at 19 sites throughout the country.
Twenty-six faith groups in the Chulaimbo region have joined the Global Interfaith Partnership, including Legio Maria, an analogue to the Roman Catholic Church.
Bringing such diverse communities together has been a lesson in radical hospitality, says Ellen Daniels-Howell, director of the partnership. “We learn a lot about ourselves and each other by having members of Indiana congregations working alongside members of Kenyan congregations,” she says.
Forging these new friendships in Kenya is transforming everyone involved, says Kevin Armstrong.
“Many of our members who head to Kenya are startled by the juxtaposition of this immensely beautiful land and people living in the midst of such a horrible pandemic. It’s tempting to get in and get out, a little like tourists who know they don’t have to stay too long in any one place.