by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 October 2006)
I know there are millions of people in the world today who believe in supernatural healing, whether through meditation, prayer or another form of spiritual process. I am not going to ride roughshod over anyone’s faith in a deity, but I think most “healing ministries” do more harm than good – both to God and to the people.
Since I grew up in a very religious home and spent most of my adult life adhering to those teachings, I know those who work for Ernest Angley Ministries will tell themselves (and everyone else) they are being attacked by the devil when facing opposition to their claims of being able to heal HIV/AIDS. In reality, these ministries are creating a false hope that can be very dangerous.
According to a Saturday Stabroek News article entitled, “Health Ministry slams Angley for HIV claim,” the Health Ministry rightly issued a strong warning against believing there is a cure for HIV/AIDS. This was a wise move by the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, and could have possibly even saved the lives of some people.
First of all, let me say that if Ernest Angley or any others in his band of miracle workers had verifiably healed even one person in this world from HIV/AIDS, we would all know about it. Word of such a miracle would have spread far and wide and people would be able to thank God for such a wonderful exploit.
However, no such feat has occurred and to make such a claim is highly irresponsible. What if a person of faith here in Guyana received prayer at one of Angley’s crusades this weekend and left believing he or she was indeed healed of HIV/AIDS and subsequently stopped taking the necessary medicine and even had unprotected sex?
This ministry’s irresponsibility could have risked the health, and maybe even the lives, of hundred or thousands of Guyanese. I applaud the Health Ministry for being quick on its feet and taking such a strong stance on this issue.
According to the Stabroek News article, the Health Ministry issued a statement that said, “Anyone who promotes the misrepresentation that there is a religious-based cure for HIV is involved in an obscene exploitation of people's vulnerability.”
The Ministry also said, “We are unaware of the existence to date of any cure, anywhere in the world for HIV infection and there has been no scientific documentation of any cure for AIDS."
From a government that is too often reactive on important issues, oft times to the detriment of the general public, this time it was proactive and could have saved the lives of many people.
I am not belittling anyone’s faith for believing in supernatural healing and if a verifiable healing of HIV/AIDS were to take place, I would rejoice as loudly as anyone else. However, this is one time when, for the sake of the people, practicality and good sense should take precedence over a preacher’s desire to make reckless claims of healing.
Such assertions are irresponsible no matter where they are made, but they are even more imprudent when made in a country where the medical facilities are wanting, some of the nurses and doctor need a refresher course on good bedside manners and medical technology and science are frequently dated.
These factors, as well as the knowledge that even with the best technology and medical treatment there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, can highly frustrate a person with this disease and cause them to want to believe that if they have enough faith, maybe they can be healed.
During my religious days, I watched over and over again as literally thousands of people would flock toward the front of a church or a meeting hall for healing, only to be disappointed. Sometimes these people would even discontinue their medicine believing they were healed and in the end they were worse than before.
I do not doubt that people make spiritual connections through their faith. Likewise, if a person wants to believe his/her faith has brought healing, that is fine too. My concern begins when the irresponsible actions of a minister threatens the health and lives of the people, such as minister making claims of healing HIV/AIDS when the medical community is working tirelessly to educate and help those who suffer from this deadly disease.
Moreover, I have seen people psychologically crushed when they did not receive the healing promised by a minister and consequently lose their faith in God altogether because the “man of God” did not come through.
There have even been times when these people feel as if there is something wrong with them, like they are not good enough for God or like they are less of a person for not being able to have enough faith to get healed.
Ministers solidify this emotion and tell these people to build their faith, but instead, someone should be telling the minister to stop creating situations that make it appear as if a person’s faith has failed. In truth, it is the minister who has failed.
Level heads prevailed this time around for Guyana. The Health Ministry has protected the people as best it could and no one could ask for more from any government. However, much should still be expected from Ernest Angley Ministries, like perhaps a more responsible approach in promoting its crusades and an apology for telling the nation it can heal HIV/AIDS.
If I am wrong, and Ernest Angley has healed just one person with HIV/AIDS, as proven by the medical community, then I will write a public apology in this column and go to church as soon as possible.
However, if I am right and there is not one verifiable healing of HIV/AID by this ministry and it is dishonestly promoting its crusade by making such claims, then it owes Guyana an apology.
Ernest Angley Ministries will shake the dust off its feet concerning my soul now, but I will have an assurance in my heart that the people are finally getting the real truth.