As we drove to Bafoulabe for our week of Bible teaching with 2 old friends, Moise (Moses) & Ananias, we were asking what they knew of many mutual friends. We got to a certain career soldier named Jacques, there was a pause, and one said in surprise, "He died! Two years ago (we found out later it was 7 years ago)! Didn't you know?" Since he could only have been about 40, I exclaimed, "Was it an accident, or was he sick?"
"He had AIDS," I was told. That's always an uncomfortable pronouncement, since AIDS is sexually transmitted (here almost always heterosexually) and Jacques was a Christian.
Ananias filled the silence: "He was stationed in the far north (Sahara Desert) so he left his family back home and just visited them from time to time. It was those (Tribe x) women who infected him up there!"
It turns out that Jacques' wife died about 6 months after him (no big surprise there) and their only child shortly thereafter (she was probably conceived after her mother was infected).
Later, as Jim & I processed this conversation, we noticed that even though adultery is a sin in the Christian faith, it wasn't Jacques' fault he and his family died -- it was those (Tribe x) women! Perhaps this was said in the interest of not speaking ill of the dead (although those prostitutes are probably dead as well!), but I think it goes deeper than that.
For one thing, Malians believe that if a man goes without sex for too long, he'll become crazy or unstable. So the unspoken message is that not only could he not help what he did, but that he needed to do it.
Besides, Jacques is our friend, and those prostitutes are strangers...
Jacques is a believer and those (Tribe x) women were Muslims...
Jacques is from "our" tribe and they were from "another..."
So it was the fault of "those (Tribe x) women," not our poor dear brother who was only doing what is natural to a man in his situation.
And we think Western society is guilty of avoiding responsibility...