Faith groups mobilize for global push against AIDS and HIV

By staff writers
August 8, 2006

Faith groups mobilize for global push against AIDS and HIV

-08/08/06

Action and accountability are the recurring themes as an estimated 20,000 participants prepare for the 16th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006), "Time to Deliver", from 13-18 August 2006, in Toronto, Canada.

Faith-based participants at this, the world's largest HIV/AIDS conference, intend to examine how they will deliver on their promises - and they will also challenge government and other players to keep their promises through ecumenical and inter-faith pre-conferences.

Policy-makers, researchers, health care providers, activists and people living with HIV are among those taking part ñ with Dr Peter Piot, Bishop Mark Hanson, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, the Rev Rick and Kay Warren, and Erik Sawyer among speakers at ecumenical and interfaith pre-conferences taking place on the eve of the major event.

The fact that Rick and Kay Warren, among Americaís best-known evangelical leaders, are joining other ecumenical Christian and interfaith organizations will be seen as a significant step forward in consolidating the churchesí response to AIDS and HIV.

There are continuing disagreements within Christian organizations, not least among evangelicals, Catholics and ecumenicals, about preventative measures and the relationship between the AIDS struggle and questions of sexual morality.

Some prominent Catholics are breaking ranks with their hierarchyís refusal to contemplate the promotion of condoms as part of a range of responses ñ an approach which critics point out costs lives.

But campaigners believe these have to be argued out in the face of those suffering from the disease, not in abstraction ñ and they stress that the Canada conference must be about commitment before controversy.

The pre-conferences are taking place at University of Toronto's 89 Chestnut residence, from 10-12 August. "Statements and promises have been made that give people hope," says Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. "These words must be put into action."

At the pre-conferences, over 500 faith-based participants will hear and discuss central challenges to their response to HIV and AIDS, including working with the most marginalized people living with HIV, cooperating with multilateral and civil society organizations and networks, and fulfilling the promises faith groups have made in response to AIDS.

Skills-building workshops will also help participants to share best practices and to strengthen effective responses in grassroots action and advocacy.

Key presenters in the pre-conferences include: Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS; Bishop Mark Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Canon Gideon Byamugisha, founder of the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV or AIDS (ANERELA+); the Rev Rick Warren, pastor, author of the 25 million copies best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life; Kay Warren, executive director of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church, a congregation of over 22,000 people in Lake Forest, California; and Erik Sawyer, one of the founders of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Probably the largest conference on a single health issue, AIDS 2006 comes on the heels of a major UN review of government responses to AIDS in New York in May and the G8 meeting in St Petersburg in July, both of which deeply disappointed many faith-based organizations and other civil society actors for the lack of follow-up on previous commitments and avoidance of setting clear targets for action.

During AIDS 2006, faith-based representatives will join over 20,000 other participants from the academic, scientific and medical communities; corporations; policy-makers from governmental and intergovernmental organizations; national and international non-governmental organizations and movements; and positive people's networks.

Churches and church-related organizations in the Toronto area have formed a Christian Host Committee through the Canadian Council of Churches to support and facilitate the faith-based presence at AIDS 2006.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance provides overall coordination and support for faith-based participation through its secretariat and several international planning committees.

The Geneva based World Council of Churches is also working to support and publicise AIDS 2006.

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches sign AIDS code; Flower power deals a fresh blow to HIV-AIDS;
Cardinal calls for reduction in price of AIDS medicines; Churches face up to world AIDS pandemic; HIV+ African priest looks to AIDS-free world by 2025; Priests resist condom use in HIV-hit Tanzania; Christian-owned company produces cheap AIDS drugs; US church leader urges action not obstruction on AIDS; The Body of Christ has AIDS, say Methodists; Religious right thwarted AIDS meeting, say NGOs]

Faith groups mobilize for global push against AIDS and HIV

-08/08/06

Action and accountability are the recurring themes as an estimated 20,000 participants prepare for the 16th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006), "Time to Deliver", from 13-18 August 2006, in Toronto, Canada.

Faith-based participants at this, the world's largest HIV/AIDS conference, intend to examine how they will deliver on their promises - and they will also challenge government and other players to keep their promises through ecumenical and inter-faith pre-conferences.

Policy-makers, researchers, health care providers, activists and people living with HIV are among those taking part ñ with Dr Peter Piot, Bishop Mark Hanson, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, the Rev Rick and Kay Warren, and Erik Sawyer among speakers at ecumenical and interfaith pre-conferences taking place on the eve of the major event.

The fact that Rick and Kay Warren, among Americaís best-known evangelical leaders, are joining other ecumenical Christian and interfaith organizations will be seen as a significant step forward in consolidating the churchesí response to AIDS and HIV.

There are continuing disagreements within Christian organizations, not least among evangelicals, Catholics and ecumenicals, about preventative measures and the relationship between the AIDS struggle and questions of sexual morality.

Some prominent Catholics are breaking ranks with their hierarchyís refusal to contemplate the promotion of condoms as part of a range of responses ñ an approach which critics point out costs lives.

But campaigners believe these have to be argued out in the face of those suffering from the disease, not in abstraction ñ and they stress that the Canada conference must be about commitment before controversy.

The pre-conferences are taking place at University of Toronto's 89 Chestnut residence, from 10-12 August. "Statements and promises have been made that give people hope," says Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. "These words must be put into action."

At the pre-conferences, over 500 faith-based participants will hear and discuss central challenges to their response to HIV and AIDS, including working with the most marginalized people living with HIV, cooperating with multilateral and civil society organizations and networks, and fulfilling the promises faith groups have made in response to AIDS.

Skills-building workshops will also help participants to share best practices and to strengthen effective responses in grassroots action and advocacy.

Key presenters in the pre-conferences include: Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS; Bishop Mark Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Canon Gideon Byamugisha, founder of the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV or AIDS (ANERELA+); the Rev Rick Warren, pastor, author of the 25 million copies best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life; Kay Warren, executive director of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church, a congregation of over 22,000 people in Lake Forest, California; and Erik Sawyer, one of the founders of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Probably the largest conference on a single health issue, AIDS 2006 comes on the heels of a major UN review of government responses to AIDS in New York in May and the G8 meeting in St Petersburg in July, both of which deeply disappointed many faith-based organizations and other civil society actors for the lack of follow-up on previous commitments and avoidance of setting clear targets for action.

During AIDS 2006, faith-based representatives will join over 20,000 other participants from the academic, scientific and medical communities; corporations; policy-makers from governmental and intergovernmental organizations; national and international non-governmental organizations and movements; and positive people's networks.

Churches and church-related organizations in the Toronto area have formed a Christian Host Committee through the Canadian Council of Churches to support and facilitate the faith-based presence at AIDS 2006.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance provides overall coordination and support for faith-based participation through its secretariat and several international planning committees.

The Geneva based World Council of Churches is also working to support and publicise AIDS 2006.

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches sign AIDS code; Flower power deals a fresh blow to HIV-AIDS;
Cardinal calls for reduction in price of AIDS medicines; Churches face up to world AIDS pandemic; HIV+ African priest looks to AIDS-free world by 2025; Priests resist condom use in HIV-hit Tanzania; Christian-owned company produces cheap AIDS drugs; US church leader urges action not obstruction on AIDS; The Body of Christ has AIDS, say Methodists; Religious right thwarted AIDS meeting, say NGOs]

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