London, Nov 03 (ANI): A South African pastor has sparked anger with a bizarre claim that Jesus Christ was HIV-positive.
Xola Skosana left his congregation in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township stunned with his statement, which he explained he had made in a bid to remove the stigma attached to HIV sufferers in his country.
And Skosana, whose non-denominational Hope for Life Ministry is part of a growing charismatic movement in South Africa, insists his message is more about giving hope than anything else.
"Wherever you open the scriptures Jesus puts himself in the shoes of people who experience brokenness," the Daily Mail quoted the Pastor as telling the BBC.
"Isaiah 53, for example, clearly paints a picture of Jesus who takes upon himself the infirmities and the brokenness of humanity. Of course, there's no scientific evidence that Jesus had the HI virus in his bloodstream.
"The best gift we can give to people who are HIV-positive is to help de-stigmatise Aids and create an environment where they know God is not against them, he's not ashamed of them," he stated.
But his statement has angered many Christians, who say that it portrays Jesus as being sexually promiscuous.
"The subject of my Jesus being HIV-positive is a scathing matter," local pastor, Mike Bele said.
"I believe no anointed leader with a sound mind about the scriptures and the role of Christ in our lives would deliberately drag the name of Christ to the ground," he added.
But despite the angry reaction from some Christians others have come to the pastor's defence.
"What Pastor Skosana is clearly saying is that Christ at this point in time would be on the side of the people who are HIV-positive - people who are being sidelined by the very church that is attacking him," Reverend Siyabulela Gidi, the director of South African Council of Churches in the Western Cape, said.
"Pastor Skosana has fortunately got the country talking, he's got the world talking and that is what theology is all about," he added.
Aids activists have also backed the sermon, with Vuyiseka Dubula, general secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a South African Aids activist group, agreeing to it.
"It takes away the stigma that HIV is a sin and that it's God's punishment. To associate Jesus with HIV is powerful, particularly for those who go to church," he added. (ANI)