Health & Human Rights
What is at Stake
From their earliest beginnings, Adventists have been known for their dedication to healthy lifestyle practices and to a public “ministry of healing.” Adventists today enjoy among the highest longevity rates in the world and operate one of the world’s largest and most advanced hospital and medical care systems. The Adventist passion for healthful living and the healing arts is rooted in a desire to follow Christ’s example as well as in a holistic understanding of personhood that emphasizes the close connections between spiritual, mental, and bodily well-being.
A truly holistic ministry of healing, however, cannot ignore glaring social, economic, and political facts. We do not live in isolation but in community with others. Our health is inseparably linked to the health of our communities—and healthy communities must be communities of social justice. Diseases are often the result of structural or institutional realities that result in entrenched poverty, violence, human rights abuses, and unequal access to life-saving care. Sickness is a consequence not simply of viruses or pathogens but of what physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer calls “pathologies of power.”
When pharmaceutical companies deny affordable medicine to the poor in order to maximize their profits, when politicians deny insurance to the most vulnerable in order to protect the interests of private corporations, and when public health officials settle for managing illness rather than challenging social and economic injustices that cause illness, the ministry of healing is betrayed. We cannot speak intelligibly about global health without also speaking of human rights.
The APF calls for a new generation of Adventist medical professionals who will dedicate their lives not simply to providing care for the poor but also to forging alliances and engaging in public policy work to confront the nexus of healthcare and human rights. We encourage individuals in our network to consider supporting the following campaigns, actions, and organizations that are engaged in work at this new frontier of medical missions:
“I'm Not Leaving” tells the harrowing story of Rwanda genocide survivor (and APF Advisory Board member) Karl Wilkens, who refused to evacuate Kigali with other foreigners and who helped to save hundreds of orphans lives.
Directed by Paul Kim
In this award-winning documentary by Paul Kim, the lives of three medical workers intersect in the poorest of African countries. An American doctor, a Danish nurse, and a medical student put everything on the line to revive a dying hospital and raise the standard of healthcare in a brutally harsh environment.
For years the Auburn Adventist church fed and clothed the homeless and those living on the margins of society until one day some of its members asked the question, “What if instead of feeding the homeless we gave them an opportunity to grow their own food?”
Directed by Paul Kim
This clip from a longer film about the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Paul Kim tells the story of Sibulele Sibaca, a celebrated HIV/AIDS activist in South Africa. She recalls her experience growing up as an AIDS orphan, and how that has driven her to focus on what she passionately feels is a divine calling to serve the young.
By PBS Frontline
This PBS Frontline documentary on the Rwandan genocide in which an estimated 10,000 Adventists were killed, many by their fellow Adventists, includes the story of Carl Wilkens, an Adventist missionary who put his wife and children on a U.S. convoy out of Rwanda but chose to remain in the country. By the night of April 10, 1994, he was the only American left in Rwanda.