Churches to break 'awkward silence' about AIDS

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- "What are we going to do with AIDS? Are we going to adopt the Dakar Declaration after that of Kampala and then leave it at that?" a clergyman asked.
Father Kwame Labi was speaking to fellow African church leaders after a brainstorming session during which ministers of Christian churches deliberated on a common strategy to fight the AIDS epidemic.
It is time to break "the awkward silence", another clergyman added his voice, referring to the church's failure to speak unreservedly about the modes HIV, the virus that causes AIDS in a human body, is transmitted.
Some 82 representatives of the African Council of Churches from 15 countries, who converged in Dakar this week to chart an anti-AIDS strategy, apparently realised that they were lagging behind other activists in the arena.
Africa's population is heavily being cut down by AIDS and the effects of increasing funerals in urban centres and rural areas are ringing louder than church bells in all congregations.
"Our problem is that in churches we preach too much and take little action", said a meeting participant, urging African churches to develop "solid AIDS eradication programmes and form a network for comparing notes".
"Africa is dying of AIDS", said Father Labi, observing that it would be a "very sad case" if church leaders continue to drag their feet on the disaster.
According to the UN Joint Programme on AIDS, or UNAIDS, 25.
3 million people in sub-Sahara Africa are infected with the AIDS virus.
This is close to 70 percent of the world population living with HIV/AIDS.
The glaring statistics about the epidemic are now pushing African church leaders to drive the AIDS message home to their congregations alongside sermons about the Word.
The number one recommendation from the Dakar meeting was that the fight against AIDS should be the Church's top priority.
African church leaders resolved that more emphasis should be put on education and information sharing on HIV/AIDS between African churches and churches in industrialised countries.
In what they labelled as the "Dakar Declaration", they call for inclusion of education on HIV/AIDS in theological studies and educational training programmes designed for other church institutions.
Collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations, they said, should be strengthened with a view to realising the desired change in people's sexual behaviour.
The clergymen's Dakar Declaration will be submitted to the UN's special session on HIV/AIDS to be held in June in New York.
Noting that 80 percent of the world population adhere to one faith or another, they said leaders of all religions should use their unique position to discuss the HIV/AIDS issue with believers in order to save families and social structures from crumbling.
Churches and their organisations should play a fundamental leadership role in communities because of their credibility, they said.
"Speaking about AIDS should no longer be considered a taboo within the Church", the declaration says.
In a nutshell, church leaders have realised that spiritual health needs sound human bodies.
It is not enough to concentrate on nursing patients and caring for orphans, without tackling the AIDS problem from its roots.

26 april 2001 23:10:00

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