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The Coronavirus Diaries: A Deep and Inconsolable Loss

Wednesday July 7

Carol Finlay pays tribute to Phumzile Mabizela, a church leader and prominent advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS whose death is a reminder of global inequality in the fight against Covid-19.


The Rev Phumzile Mabizela passed away this week.  Phumzile was the Executive Director of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and /or Personally Affected by HIV (INERELA+) from 2012.

She died due to Covid-19 in Mbombela (Nelspruit), in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Her death is a stark reminder of the tremendous inequity the world faces as it deals with the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to a lack of intensive care beds in Johannesburg, she was admitted to a hospital 400 km away from her home. Despite being part of a vulnerable population, with many co-morbidities, due to the shortage of vaccines she had not even received a single dose of the vaccine.

She was the Co-Moderator of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance - HIV Campaign Strategy Group and a member of the World Council of Churches International Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy - International Reference Group. She also played a vital role in the UNAIDS PEPFAR Faith Initiative.

With dynamic leadership, she championed the welfare of people living with HIV globally and equipped faith communities to face HIV, strive for justice, and overcome stigma and discrimination. She has mentored many leaders globally. Her death is a deep and inconsolable loss for faith communities.

Phumzile was a mother, a friend, sister, a theologian, a mentor, an advisor and colleague who was not afraid to speak and made a difference for many through her tenacious faith, spirit, and passion for healing and justice. She has left a great legacy but has also left a large hole in many hearts in her home country of South Africa and around the world.

Her death and the death of so many others, highlights the WHO’s declaration that there needs to be global access to coronavirus tests, treatment and vaccines for everyone who needs them, anywhere. They say ‘ A global pandemic requires a world effort to end it – none of us will be safe until everyone is safe.’


Carol Finlay works with the Faith Impact Forum of the Church of Scotland and is a member of the WCC-EAA Strategy for HIV group


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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Malawi: This Was Very Real
Sri Lanka: Daily Numbers are Shocking
Jerusalem: Virtual Prisoners
Bangladesh: We Will Survive by the Grace of God
Nepal: Exhausting and Often Heartbreaking
Malawi: God Has Been Faithful to Us
France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'