Faith-based work of churches to feature at global AIDS conference - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
June 24, 2004

Faith-based work of churches to feature at global AIDS conference

-24/6/04

Faith-based organizations will have a major voice at the largest global meeting ever of HIV and AIDS experts, highlighting the vital, but often unrecognized, role they play in fighting the spread of the virus and caring for those with it.

A wide range of organizations from Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish traditions will be represented at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, from 11-16 July. They will share how they meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those living with HIV and AIDS and debate the challenges involved in combating stigma and preventing the spread of the virus.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will support the participation of representatives from several grassroots organizations. It will also bring project manager Dr Christoph Mann and Southern Africa regional coordinator Dr Sue Parry of the WCC Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA). This initiative, which aims to help churches in Africa become AIDS-competent, links them with northern churches and agencies, enabling access to information, training, networks and funding.

"Faith-based communities are accountable to their people for credible information, education and support that will mobilize them as communities that are competent to face the challenge of AIDS with all the resources that are available to them - including their faith," says Dr Manoj Kurian, responsible for the Health and Healing programme at the WCC.

With more than 100 faith-based organizations set to attend, the faith community will be the heart and soul of the conference. It will be an energetic participant, using art, dance and drama to show how these organizations are confronting the pandemic at the grassroots level.

The voice given by the conference to the faith-based community recognizes the massive range of work it is doing and the key role it plays in educating communities, shaping values and providing care. Past conferences tended to overlook this fact, yet in Africa, for example, church members are leading efforts to care for people affected by HIV and AIDS, especially children. In Thailand itself, Buddhist monks are active in the same way.

Ms Linda Hartke, coordinator for the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, says: ìFaith communities and religious leaders all over the world have been judgemental and hurtful to people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. At the same time, there are many examples of leaders who have rejected stigmatizing behaviour, and communities that have embraced people who are affected.

ìAs churches, we are still struggling to accept the reality that we are all living with HIV and AIDS," she states. ìWe have a huge task ahead of us to build communities of faith that welcome all and judge none.î

Faith-based work of churches to feature at global AIDS conference

-24/6/04

Faith-based organizations will have a major voice at the largest global meeting ever of HIV and AIDS experts, highlighting the vital, but often unrecognized, role they play in fighting the spread of the virus and caring for those with it.

A wide range of organizations from Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish traditions will be represented at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, from 11-16 July. They will share how they meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those living with HIV and AIDS and debate the challenges involved in combating stigma and preventing the spread of the virus.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will support the participation of representatives from several grassroots organizations. It will also bring project manager Dr Christoph Mann and Southern Africa regional coordinator Dr Sue Parry of the WCC Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA). This initiative, which aims to help churches in Africa become AIDS-competent, links them with northern churches and agencies, enabling access to information, training, networks and funding.

"Faith-based communities are accountable to their people for credible information, education and support that will mobilize them as communities that are competent to face the challenge of AIDS with all the resources that are available to them - including their faith," says Dr Manoj Kurian, responsible for the Health and Healing programme at the WCC.

With more than 100 faith-based organizations set to attend, the faith community will be the heart and soul of the conference. It will be an energetic participant, using art, dance and drama to show how these organizations are confronting the pandemic at the grassroots level.

The voice given by the conference to the faith-based community recognizes the massive range of work it is doing and the key role it plays in educating communities, shaping values and providing care. Past conferences tended to overlook this fact, yet in Africa, for example, church members are leading efforts to care for people affected by HIV and AIDS, especially children. In Thailand itself, Buddhist monks are active in the same way.

Ms Linda Hartke, coordinator for the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, says: ìFaith communities and religious leaders all over the world have been judgemental and hurtful to people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. At the same time, there are many examples of leaders who have rejected stigmatizing behaviour, and communities that have embraced people who are affected.

ìAs churches, we are still struggling to accept the reality that we are all living with HIV and AIDS," she states. ìWe have a huge task ahead of us to build communities of faith that welcome all and judge none.î

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