Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

I received the news that Fr. Nemoto Teruo, a person I formerly introduced in this Bulletin in connection with his activities in a Hospice for HIV patients of South Africa, had moved to a new mission. At first, I received the news with astonishment. On one hand, the number of HIV patients is on the increase and the use of ARV treatment to control the disease is gradually being used also in poor areas, thanks to official efforts and as Fr. Nemoto mentioned during his past visit to Japan, besides hospices, education is needed to eradicate poverty and the slums that provide the natural basis for the addiction to drugs, one of the main causes of AIDS. This is why he stressed that he wanted to make efforts to work not only for hospices but for youth education as well.

Even, at present, the spread of AIDS in South Africa provokes many cases of people rejected by relatives and their local societies and the center where Fr. Nemoto worked accepted primarily such patients, so that in 2003 alone 317 AIDS people were taken into the Center for treatment. This important work was widely recognized and in the spring of 2004 he received an award for his medical services abroad. Public attention focused on the future of those services as a special TV documentary was produced. Why to change at this time?

From the beginning of the year he decided for a more dangerous road, moving out of South Africa. When I asked him the reasons for that he explained to me. "South Africa has many AIDS patients and it is meaningful to work there. On the other hand, thanks to the mass media, in Japan the network of collaborators spread and back in Africa the volunteers related to the Care Center have become more professional. The government has introduced the ARV treatment and more patients are profiting from it. But, then, you will think, why to retire at this moment from there? It is true that, since I received social recognition, the basis of my work in South Africa was consolidated. Nevertheless, I continued asking myself whether it was worthy to follow these activities and try to make them successful only here."
"When I think about the reasons why I came to South Africa, I recall my motives to be in solidarity with those suffering discrimination as a result of the apartheid official policies. That made news at the time and the realities about HIV remained hidden. People living in the slums would die because of unknown causes and the government hided the true realities till the Wealth Health Organization (WHO) conducted surveys. At that time I felt the calamity and begun to work with AIDS patients. At present, international attention concentrates on assisting the AIDS patients of South Africa. Now, I started to reflect that maybe God is calling me to work in countries holding many victims that are not given public recognition due to official repressive policies. The people close to me asked, "Fr. Nicolas, remain here with us. Why do you want to leave?" But, after all, I left the place after putting in order all my work there".

In other words, my impression was that Fr. Nemoto's choice to look for another mission, different from South Africa, was a decision for another way of life. In my interview I could not escape from asking: "Why is that"? This was justified, no matter the fact that at his age (73 years) he had decided to move from a land that promised to bring some good results into a barren desert. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that in the near future he is going to give me an answer from the new mission land.

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