Prayers and Poems for World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day_December 1st

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close
My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
if Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
. . .
The Maryknoll AIDS Task Force Prayer
God of all compassion, comfort your sons and daughters who live with HIV.
Spread over us all your quilt of mercy, love and peace.
Open our eyes to your presence reflected in their faces.
Open our ears to your truth echoing in their hearts.
Give us the strength to weep with the grieving,
to walk with the lonely, to stand with the depressed.
May our love mirror your love for those who live in fear,
who live under stress and who suffer rejection.
Mothering, fathering God grant rest to those who have died
and hope to all who live with HIV.
God of life, help us to find the cure now and help us to build
a world in which no one dies alone
and where everyone lives accepted, wanted and loved.
(Prayer courtesy of the Maryknoll Sisters of the San Salvador Diocesan HIV/AIDS programme and Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance)
. . .
Prayer for the Girl Child (from Musa W. Dube’s Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS)
We are gathered together to affirm the humanity of the girl child. We celebrate the fact that the girl child was created in the image of God and is loved by God. We claim responsibility to protect the girl child and give her the opportunity to grow without fear of being abused by anyone. We pray for a safe environment that is created by all for the safety of the girl child. Amen.
. . .
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
A Witness in Favour of a Stricken People (excerpt from The Plague)
Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favour of those plague-stricken people: so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in people than to despise. Nonetheless, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.
Translation from French: Stuart Gilbert
The Maryknoll AIDS Task Force was founded in January 1992
From the Rig-Veda (ancient Sanskrit hymns from India):
Oh God,
Let us be united
Let us speak in harmony;
Let our minds apprehend alike.
Common be our prayer,
Common be the end of our assembly;
Common be our resolution;
Common be our deliberations.
Alike be our feelings;
Unified be our hearts;
Common be our intentions;
Perfect be our unity.
. . .
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
The Long Boat
When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.
. . .
Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)
On Dying
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says
“She is gone.”
Gone where?
The loss of sight is in me, not in her.
Just at the moment when someone says “She is gone,”
there are others who are watching her coming;
other voices take up the glad shout, “Here she comes.”
And that is dying.
. . .
A Confucian Prayer
All fathers are to be served,
Revered, as one’s own father.
All mothers are to be cherished
As one’s own mother.
All men and women are to be respected,
Honoured, as one’s own brothers and sisters.
As earth bears them all,
So all of them are to be accepted.
All are to acknowledge
And to act upon
Their universal kinship.
Thus will the Great Unity come into being.
. . .
A Hopi Native-American Prayer


Do not stand at my grave and weep
– I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
– I am not there, I do not sleep.
. . .
From Japanese Shinto sayings:


Clothe yourself in kindness.
The heart of the person before you is a mirror:
Behold therein your own.
One good word can warm three winter months.
One good deed is better than three days of fasting at a shrine.
Requite ill-will with kindness.
Be like the tree – which covers with flowers the hand that shakes it.
. . .

We are grateful for provision of these poems and prayers to: The Maryknoll Sisters, whose AIDS Task Force was founded in January 1992; Professor Musa W. Dube, feminist theologian from Botswana; and The Huffington Post.


To read poems in four languages – ZP’s World AIDS Day 25th Anniversary feature (December 1st, 2013) – click the following link:

. . . . .