On Battling AIDS – Church Leaders Must Make an Example

( [email protected] ) May 22, 2004 02:15 PM EDT

On Wednesday, May 19, the Royal African Society (RAS) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) met in London for a roundtable discussion on what churches can do to bring hope in lieu of the escalating HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.

“Statistics tend to dazzle us, but if you concentrate and think about just one aspect in turn and address each issue methodically, we can move forwards,” said Archbishop Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa.

According to Ndungane, the attendants felt that with international assistance, the situation can be alleviated.

“We can revisit and develop the idea of international leadership in the fight against the disease with direct input from the British Government. The UK government in the coming year is in a unique position to help, and through partnership with prominent Africans, other governments, the Church and aid agencies we can all try to make a difference,” he said.

Through intervention from western states, Ndungane said the root cause of the disease – poverty – could be alleviated.

“By addressing poverty, parents would be able to get the drugs to live longer, and the children would have fuller lives, more akin to normality. We can also extend our Church networks to target young people with education – teaching responsible sexual behaviour – and to reduce the danger of stigma, which stops people getting tested earlier,” said Ndungane.

Meanwhile, Ndungane said African leaders must continue to become strong promoters of anti-AIDS programs. He praised the many leaders in African churches that have taken AIDS tests in an effort to make the testing more socially acceptable and visible.

He also urged Churches in particular to take part in helping the situation in Africa.

“We are all one body. When part of the body suffers, we should all feel that pain,” he said. “The Anglican Communion is right to highlight the issues facing Africa – we have life and death situations facing us every day, whether AIDS, poverty, or war – and we need people to feel this across the whole Anglican World, to be one with us. In an ever-globalising world, the Anglican Communion Office keeps us all in touch and aware of each others needs. The strength of the Communion is that we are all bound together by the bonds of affection. By all feeling, and so by all acting, we can defeat this disease and all of Africa’s problems.”