challenged to keep promises for action on HIV and AIDS
Press Release no. 4
By Frank Imhoff, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
11 August 2006
[Free photos accompany this article. See below for details.]
Keeping promises is an attribute of faith that Christians can and must
apply as they respond to HIV and AIDS. A panel of four speakers opened
the ecumenical pre-conference, "Faith in Action: Keeping the Promise,"
today by challenging the 500 participants to assess their own work while
advocating for people living with HIV and AIDS.
The ecumenical pre-conference (August 10-11) and an interfaith
pre-conference (August 12) at the University of Toronto precede the 2006
International AIDS Conference (August 13-18) at the Metro Toronto
Sister Patricia Talone, vice president for mission services, Catholic
Health Association, St. Louis, USA, recalled that children add emphasis
to promises with "cross my heart and hope to die." The phrase "contains
an intuitive sense that giving one's word carries with it the essence -
the life and life blood - of who one is. It is part of one's own
identity," she said.
Talone outlined four aspects of "covenant" from Judeo-Christian
scriptures that apply to the churches' ministry with people affected by
HIV and AIDS.
First, God's relationship with God's creation is faithful. Second, as
children of God, "we must acknowledge that we are sisters and brothers,"
she said. Third, God calls people of faith to give top priority to the
poor, sick and vulnerable. Fourth, God's covenant with people of faith
"challenges each one to fulfill our part of the bargain."
"If our generation does not 'step up to the plate' and recognize and act
on the fact that we are sisters and brothers to all who suffer," Talone
said, "then we risk the loss of more than fortune, culture and a way of
life. We risk having our very human identity slip between our
fingers." She concluded, "Our faith demands more of us. Our God
demands more of us. Our sisters and brothers who have gone before us
demand more of us. Our future demands more of us."
The Rev. Johannes Petrus Heath, general secretary, African Network of
Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA+),
Johannesburg, South Africa, said, "What we are talking about when we are
relating to HIV and AIDS is so much a reflection of how faith
communities are responding to who we are in terms of who God has called
us to be. HIV and AIDS have in so many senses simply given us a tool, a
mirror, to look more closely at the way we relate to the world as a
"The faith community has the charge of being advocates. We can advocate
our governments; we can advocate civil structures; we can advocate
health care systems," Heath said. "But faith communities in and of
ourselves have the ability to do so much more than simply advocate for
other people to be doing the work," he said.
"We, the faith communities, are the people who are called by God to be
the caregivers, the hands, the heart, the ears, the eyes, the feet of
God in the world," Heath said. "It is sadness that we still have to ask
the question, 'What is it to keep the promise?'" he said. "How is it
that we move beyond the place of asking the question to putting policy
into practice, because keeping the promise, for me, means being the
heart of God in the world?"
Andy Seale, chief for civil society partnerships, Policy, Evidence and
Partnerships Unit, the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS),
urged pre-conference participants to "not lose sight of what initially
moved you to get involved in AIDS work. Remind yourself of what or who
it was that inspired you to start working on AIDS. This knowledge can
help you in turn to inspire others into action."
Seale described "UN+" - an organization of HIV positive employees of the
United Nations. "We are doctors, administrators, drivers, speech
writers, security staff, directors, secretaries, protocol and logistics
experts. In short, we are at every level of the United Nations," he
"HIV positive people make a positive contribution to all aspects of
society," Seale said. "Whether you are developing workplace policies,
liturgies or working to launch initiatives to tackle AIDS, I urge you to
follow one important principle. Please always actively involve people
living with HIV in a meaningful way. We can and do make a difference to
the quality and effectiveness of AIDS work," he said.
The Rev. Adam Taylor, director of campaigns and organizing, Sojourners,
Washington, D.C., used a biblical story to compare David's response to
Goliath with the church's response to HIV and AIDS. "God has already
provided the resources," he said. David found five smooth stones to
"I want to give you five smooth stones," Taylor said. First, the church
must overcome its fear of "others." Jesus ministered among the sex
workers of his day, he said. "The church has the message that can break
the back of stigma."
The second "smooth stone" was the resources that the church has
available for "compassion and charity." Taylor said those resources
could do more to build justice. He urged the churches to use a third
resource, their prophetic voice, to speak "on behalf of the
Churches, among others, have responded to HIV and AIDS with ABC -
abstinence, being faithful and condoms, Taylor said. A fourth "smooth
stone" would be to move on to DEF - doctors, empowerment and faith, he
said. And the fifth would be putting the international structure of the
church behind the AIDS movement.
"The AIDS movement has seen several victories, but this is not a moment
for complacency. We have so much more to do," Taylor said.
An Ecumenical Media Team will provide daily feature articles and press
releases in English, with additional coverage in Spanish, French, and
German; photos; video clips; audio/radio clips; a daily conference
All material can be viewed and downloaded free of charge at:
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The Ecumenical Media Team can also assist in setting up interviews and
serving as a resource for information on faith-based efforts on HIV and
AIDS. Contact the team at:
Mobile: +1 416 825 2256
Sent by: Sara Speicher
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Phone: +44 1524 727 651
Fax: +44 1524 727 829
Stay Connected - Speak your world!
A posting from: Keep the Promise: Start Making Sense!
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