Madonna and child

The Australian AIDS Fund, arguably Australia's smallest AIDS-care agency, is questioning the wisdom of transplanting African children from their own poverty stricken lands into the lap of luxury as the world has seen in recently with pop diva Madonna's adoption of a 13 month Malawian boy, whose mother died in childbirth. But it's also applauded Madonna's generosity to Malawi at large.

Surrendered by his father to an orphanage because the father could not afford to raise him, the boy, David Banda, melted the heart of the visiting American superstar who's reportedly pledged over one and a half million pounds to help almost one million Malawi orphans with "food, education and shelter".

The Melbourne-based Australian AIDS Fund charity, headed by founder and journalist Brian Haill, believes the world needs to help Malawi rather than providing parachutes for individual rescue.

"Madonna's commitment to help feed and house almost one million orphans in Malawi is a fantastic gesture in itself. If only one dozen such people made such a gesture they'd be saving almost all the world's AIDS orphans!" Brian Haill said.

“The Australian AIDS Fund, which has no paid staff or government income, is no stranger to Malawi.

“It has provided shelter to more than 80 AIDS orphans in the rural village of Msema and has also built a brick school there: The Australian Primary School, the orphans learning centre which will open its doors to hundreds of impoverished children in January next year.  By buying land for the villagers of Msema and assuring their water supplies, we're helping them to be independent and self sufficient.”

A newly-born infant there has been given Brian Haill’s Christian name by one of the parents.

Haill says:  "In retrospect, the biblical decision of Solomon in deciding the disputed ownership of an infant was simpler than it first appeared - no mother could have agreed to share ownership by having it chopped in half.  But the wisdom of transplanting a baby from the aching poverty of rural Malawi into a life of opulence in London, an environment of bodyguards and jet travel with an international celebrity like Madonna as his Mum may well have taxed Solomon himself.

“Put aboard a jet and flown to England in the company of Madonna's ‘minders’, the 13-month-old-boy has triggered a global debate: why take a boy from his father in an impoverished African village and transplant him into a fantasy land a world away when, instead, a donation would have ensured the boy's future with his widowed father?

“The blaze of publicity surrounding this Madonna and child rekindles the whole question as to the wisdom of taking children out of their own particular cultural environments and growing them in other lands.”

Haill says that Malawi itself is divided, as international adoptions are not allowed, although this is reportedly under review. Malawian child welfare officers would be required to track the boy's progress wherever he's taken, and, reportedly, if he's not seen to be treated the same as Madonna's own two children, permanent custody could be denied.

“But while the arguments may rage across the world, Madonna has put an urgently needed spotlight on Malawi and taken one child home with her. Those she left behind see the image of Madonna and child as a lifesaver; a celebrity who's going to rescue almost one million others, apart from David. That's awesome in anyone's language."

Online Catholics subscribers are invited to visit the website and click on the Malawi Project hyperlink on its Home Page to see what the Australian AIDS Fund charity is doing in rural Malawi.

Life in Msema … (pictured from the top)
Brian, named after Brian Haill.
Learning to use the rotary hoe.
A lorry, bought for the partner organisation, Searchlight Orphan Care.  They now can drive the sick to hospital, ferry their football and netball teams to “away” games and gather food and supplies.
Working the land.
Local orphans.


Penny Edman

PS  In a weekend twist to the Madonna saga, the father, Yohane Banda, said on Sunday he had not realised he was signing away custody “for good”.  Banda, a 32-year-old peasant farmer told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Lipunga, the village where he ekes out a living growing onions and tomatoes, that he was illiterate and so had no idea of the significance of the adoption papers he signed in the High Court in the capital, Lilongwe.



Throughout the month, the Pope's general prayer intention is: "That all those who are baptized may mature in their faith and manifest it through clear, coherent and courageous choices in life."  The Pope's missionary prayer intention is: "That the celebration of World Mission Day may everywhere increase the spirit of missionary animation and cooperation."

Until 30 Disarmament Week

26 The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought:  What!  Do you mean there is more? Judas, Mary and the non-canonical gospels, with Rev’d Dr Greg Jenks; St James Church, Gillies Street, Curtin, ACT; 7.45pm   ($5 CPRT members / $8 non-members)

26-29 Pace e Bene Engage Workshop on non-violent living, co-hosted by the Toowoomba Diocesan Social Justice Commission.  (further information:  Mark Copland, telephone 07 4613 0895)

27 Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Brisbane

27 West Papua Variety Benefit Concert, St Ignatius Centre, Richmond (Melbourne); 7.30pm (cost: $20/$15 concession; information, Paula 0409945482)

Rachel’s Vineyard healing retreat (emotional and spiritual healing after abortion); Melbourne

28 Workshop: Climate Change, Spirituality, You & Me, St Thomas’ Anglican Church Hall, North Ipswich; 1-4.30pm.  Free.

Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Townsville

29 St Patrick’s Sunday Music Series: Refuge in poetry and music - Nobody know the trouble I’ve seen; featuring Thomas Keneally, Angela Chan and Godelieve Ghavalas, the Solidarity Choir of Sydney and James Nightingale; St Patrick’s Church, Grosvenor Street, Sydney; 1.30-2.30pm

30 for youth adults: Contemporary Women of Faith, led by Marie Biddle rsj, Croydon; 7.30-9.30pm.  final night.  (further information: or 02 9747 4199)

Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Melbourne

31 Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Hobart


1 Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Wagga

Qld Advocacy Inc. seminar: New Eugenics - Socially responsible reproduction or disability prejudice; Riverglenn, Indooroopilly (Brisbane); 9.30am-4pm

2 Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Bathurst

4 Walk Against Warming: International Day of Action on Climate Change

Brisbane, from Queens Park to Musgrave Park; 2pm
Sydney, from Martin Place; 11am
Melbourne, Town Hall, 1pm
Canberra, Legislative Assembly, noon
Perth, Russel Square, Northbridge, 12.30pm
Parramatta, Prince Alfred park, 9.30am

Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Parramatta





The graphic design and web content management for this edition of Online Catholics has been prepared by Ian James, of JGD Graphic + Web Melbourne.


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