Religious Leaders Failing To Confront Global AIDS, Top South African Cleric Says
Religious leaders are failing to properly confront the AIDS pandemic, South Africa's top Anglican cleric said on Tuesday in advance of a British conference on AIDS and the church, Reuters/Independent Online reports. Cape Town Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, who has been outspoken about HIV/AIDS in South Africa, said that too many churches fail to support the sick and continue to consider the disease as "God's retribution." In addition, church leaders have perpetuated the stigma surrounding the disease, Ndungane said, adding, "The church has never been good at dealing sensibly with sex, but we have too often condemned, as though sexual sin were the worst sin, and as though all those who are infected 'deserved it.'" Ndungane also said that AIDS has drawn attention to the "shameful" role some churches have played in furthering gender and economic discrimination. He added, "It is a disgrace -- and I am ashamed the church has been part of it" (Reuters/Independent Online, 6/8).
Church Leaders Attend Summit on AIDS in Africa
Protestant church leaders from throughout Africa on Tuesday gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for a four-day summit on religion and AIDS in Africa, VOA News reports. The All Africa Conference of Churches, which organized the summit, hopes to mobilize religious leaders on the continent to fight HIV/AIDS (Drudge, VOA News, 6/8). AACC's 169 churches in 39 African countries have a total of 120 million members who could "form a formidable force for social mobilization" in the fight against AIDS, according to an AACC release (AACC release, 5/10). About 40% of health facilities in Africa are run by churches, and leaders at the summit hope to explore ways of increasing the capacity of those facilities to treat HIV-positive people. In addition, church leaders hope to determine ways that the international community can more effectively support churches in their fight against the disease. However, delegates at the conference said they feel "desperation" when they consider the poverty, conflict and sexual exploitation that have fueled the epidemic, according to VOANews. "The continent is faced with extinction [a]nd it does not seem to realize (it)," Rev. Forbes Matonga of the Zimbabwe-based Christian Care said, adding, "I am disappointed with the way, not only African presidents, but even African bishops have reacted not only to HIV/AIDS but to everything else that is going on [in Africa]." Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori said that church leaders were "well-placed in society" to address the epidemic, calling on them to help educate African youth about risk behaviors (VOA News, 6/8).