LONDON - Facing the great crisis of AIDS in Africa, American and African Anglicans have teamed up to combat HIV/AIDS together. Th new initiative will see Anglican Churches in different countries share their resources and expertise in a common goal - to save people from the threat of AIDS.
Announced last weekend by the United States Agency for International Development, the team has become one of the eleven organizations that have won a five-year grant from President George Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through a competitive awards process. Nine out of the eleven are faith-based organizations. The team secured a grant of $10 million to combat HIV/AIDS through the work of the Anglican Church in southern Africa.
The international team was initiated by the Primate of Southern Africa, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Bishop of Washington John B. Chane and Rev. Canon Robert V. Lee of Fresh Ministries, a non-profit ecumenical aid and development agency in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Primate of Southern Africa Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane is very optimistic to the project, “This $10 million, and whatever resources might follow, will radically decrease the rate of HIV/AIDS infections throughout southern Africa.”
The Right Rev. David Beetge, Dean of the Province of Southern Africa, said the grant will make possible “a tremendous increase in both the scope and the effectiveness of our efforts.”
The Bishop of Washington John B. Chane appreciated the hard work of its South African counterparts, who have been battling AIDS for more than a decade. He felt honoured that his Diocese could play a role in helping the brothers and sisters in Africa.
Rev. Canon Robert V. Lee of Fresh Ministries treasured the advantage of international coalition. “We’ve found that partnerships lead to better outcomes and globally arrived-at solutions are critical if we are to succeed in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS,” Lee said.
Currently, the grant will be administered by Fresh Ministries, which raises its own funding. The programs that will be carried out in South Africa will be modeled on practices pioneered in Uganda where HIV/AIDS rates have dropped dramatically due to changes in sexual behaviour.
These are the top priorities of the program:
- Teaching abstinence before marriage
- Fidelity during marriage
- Increasing the number of people who know their HIV status
- Promoting open discussion about the disease
- Decreasing the stigma that surrounds AIDS in much of Africa
“FreshMinistries and the Diocese of Washington have many partnerships to draw on already and will work together to develop more that are ready to take the lessons learned in Uganda and help apply them elsewhere in Africa,” Lee said.
With the use of the grant, the Church of the Province of Southern Africa will hire hundreds of young outreach workers and indigenous leaders who will be trained to offer age-appropriate instruction in AIDS prevention to children and young adults.
Unity Turns Crisis to Opportunity
In this era, the Churches and the world are overhauled by the chaos in sexuality. Following this chaos in sexuality are various fatal physical diseases such as AIDS as well as its impact to the overall social and economical situation. In South Africa nearly 5 million people are infected with HIV. Swaziland has the highest infection rate in the world, approximately 40 percent.
Looking at the Anglican Church, the debate over homosexuality has caused a painful split in the Anglican Communion worldwide. The conflict has been most intense between the U.S. Episcopal Church and many of the provinces in Africa.
Last Friday, the Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the most influential Anglican leader in Africa, told Associated Press that the U.S. Episcopal Church had created a “new religion” by confirming a gay bishop in New Hampshire last year, breaking the bonds between the denominations with roots in the Church of England.
However, despite the current crisis, it is hoped that this will lead to new opportunities if the churches are willing to bind together again for the same purpose. This vision is shared between Archbishop Ndungane and Bishop Chane, both of whom said the grant came at an important time for the Anglican Communion. They believe that their cooperation with each other and with Fresh Ministries exemplified a different approach to working through the conflict.
“This is a wonderful example of how different provinces can work together to build God’s Kingdom, and bear witness to the Gospel,” Archbishop Ndungane said. “The needs of God’s people mandate that we persevere with one another, rather than letting our differences tear the Communion apart.”