World AIDS Day: churches' health project

By staff writers
December 1, 2013

On World AIDS Day (1 December 2013), it is worth reminding ourselves of the World Council of Churches' Healthand Healing project, which supports the churches' work in this field, with particular emphasis on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and the promotion of reconciliation and the "healing of memories".

The WCC's relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations such as UNICEF and UNAIDS allows it to facilitate networking and advocacy on behalf of church-related health networks. By enabling them to participate in official WHO meetings, and channelling their input to the World Health Assembly, it provides a way for civil society to influence the global governance of resources for health for all.

By stimulating dialogue among faith-based networks and within civil society, it contributes to reflection on the theological basis of medical mission as well as to the development of new concepts of Christian health care.

While many organisations are working on HIV, this project focuses on enhancing the competency of churches and related networks to deal with HIV. In 2007, it is conducting regionally-based theological studies on HIV in two regions – sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean – and compiling, publishing and disseminating information on church action and lessons learned.

The project challenges churches to include persons living with HIV in their lives, develops mechanisms for measuring churches' competencies in dealing with HIV, and encourages churches to adapt the model of the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) in their own regions.

The project partners with the WHO to equip faith communities to become more engaged in mental health issues (including addiction, suicide and depression), and to address the concerns facing those who care for people with mental health problems. An advisory group meeting, focal country studies and two regional consultations on mental health will help develop contextual resources and a toolkit for faith communities to engage with mental health.

With the help of ecumenical research institutes with experience in this area, the project is paving the way towards work on the "Healing of memories and reconciling communities". The idea is for churches and faith communities to become safe spaces where people can seek and grant forgiveness, thus promoting a culture of healing and reconciliation.

Using Contact magazine, which is available in print and electronic format, and key annual events like World Health Day and World AIDS Day, the project acts as a channel for sharing key information from different facets of the healing ministry with a wide spectrum of stakeholders.

Contact is a publication of the World Council of Churches that is now being published by key partners from different regions of the world. The current issue, as well as back issues can be downloaded here:

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