Theologians and practitioners team up in HIV prevention struggle

By staff writers
22 Jan 2008

An educational institution in southern Africa is hosting a major theological consultation on HIV prevention called by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), based in Geneva. Participants are expected from across the globe.

CABSA, the Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa at Huguenot College (http://www.cabsa.co.za/), is the hosting organisation concerned.

Forty invited theologians and experienced practitioners from all continents, representing a broad range of Christian denominations, are being invited to meet in Johannesburg from January 28 to February 2, 2008.

They are expected to formulate a document that will provide a basis for joint prevention programmes of churches in communities, as well as on national and global level.

Participants will consider not only individual ethics, but also church, community and society obligations to reduce risks that may be caused by factors such as cultural tradition, poverty, gender injustice, dysfunctional health and education systems.

The resulting document is expected to help activists justify, within their own church, why it is necessary to operate ecumenically. Further, it would promote synergies between previously isolated work of different churches and thus lead to well coordinated, managed and funded programmes.

It may also form a basis for common advocacy for prevention support by governments, the UN system as well as private companies and foundations for all Christians, organizers hope.

Lastly the document will provide background for Christians to speak with a common voice to other religions in inter-faith dialogue, a factor that is increasingly acknowledged as important for secular as well as religious cooperation in HIV-AIDS prevention.

In contrast to an earlier consultation sponsored by UNAIDS and dealing with stigma, the organizers say they realize that reaching common ground on prevention between Christian churches will be challenging and certain elements may prove more controversial.

"The prayers and support of the faithful for wisdom and the right spirit will be needed in order to bring forth the desired document and to lead to the required effects on prevention after the Consultation has finished", a spokesperson commented.

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