Access for All: A Look at Faith-Based Participation at the XV International AIDS Conference

( [email protected] ) Jul 16, 2004 01:10 PM EDT

Recent surveys have confirmed the positive impact faith-based groups have on curbing the deadly AIDS pandemic around the world. At the 15th biennial AIDS conference, held in Bangkok, Thailand from July 10-15, many of 20,000 attendees partook in numerous interfaith dialogues and worship services in an effort to bring Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindis on the common ground of serving humanity.

These faith-groups held small group meetings and discussions and led presentations throughout the weeklong conference under the banner, “Access for All: The Faith Community Responding.”

By the conference’s end, participants agreed that religious leaders of all backgrounds need to realize “that they have the ability to change [the AIDS situation] without breaking their own religious teachings,” and that these spiritual leaders must “unify their words in addressing the community.”

“God clearly regards people living with HIV/AIDS—especially those who are poor—as His beloved sons and daughters who suffer,” he explains. “Accordingly, everyone is called to regard them as beloved brothers and sisters. The refusal to treat them so, which is fundamentally a lack of faith, and the ensuing stigma and discrimination, are enormous obstacles to access,” said Father Michael Czerny of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. “Well-designed and comprehensive treatment programs run by faith-based organizations have proven to feasible, successful and beneficial. These experiences need to be shared.”

“The call to solidarity, tolerance and compassion is evidence that the faith communities are returning to their root purpose of supporting and sustaining the life that God created.” For Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye, a Ghanaian theologian and keynote speaker at the two-day ecumenical gathering running up to the 15th International Aids Conference in Bangkok, this lies at the heart of Christian ministry.

“For Christians, it is the response to the call to discipleship,” says Dr. Oduyoye, who is the director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture at the Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana.

For more detailed information about “Access for All,” please visit the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance website at: