World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

1997 Facing AIDS, the challenge, the churches' response

The challenge of AIDS calls for forthright and faithful response from Christians and the churches. This book is an important resource for shaping that response.

01 January 1997

Foreword to the second edition, 2002

"Deeply concerned that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, through its devastating scale and impact, constitutes a global emergency and one of the most formidable challenges to human life and dignity, as well as to the effective enjoyment of human rights, which undermines social and economic development throughout the world and affects all levels of society — national, community, family and individual."

Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS United Nations General Assembly, special session on AIDS, 25-27 June 2001

The global context and world-wide dimensions of this tragedy are better known today than when the first edition of this book was published in 1997. Almost everywhere in the world there has been a renewed awareness and joining of forces, even if the response is unfortunately still not on the same scale as the crisis.

The issues dealt with in this book are particularly important to help the ecumenical movement and the churches increase their commitment and resolution in the struggle against AIDS and its consequences.

By highlighting theological, ethical and pastoral approaches to the problem, this document makes an important contribution in helping us to ‘read' and understand the dramatic situation which confronts us by using the resources of our Christian faith.

As Canon Gideon Byamugisha of the Anglican Church of Uganda said in February 2002 at the launch of the Ecumenical Initiative to combat aids in Africa,

"It is now common knowledge that in HIV/AIDS, it is not the condition itself that hurts most (because many other diseases and conditions lead to serious suffering and death), but the stigma and the possibility of rejection and discrimination, misunderstanding and loss of trust that HIV positive people have to deal with."

More than ever then, the challenge to churches and Christian communities is to understand and to act.

The introduction to the action plan drawn up at the Ecumenical Consultation on Aids in Africa in November 2001 is a very clear call to awaken our Christian conscience and it is worth re-stating:

"The churches are living with HIV/AIDS. God's children are dying of AIDS. As people of faith we have done much, and yet there is much we have avoided. We confess our silence. We confess that sometimes our words and deeds have been harmful and have denied the dignity of each person. We preach the good news "that all may have life", and yet we fear that we have contributed to death."

The time has come to tell the truth
The time has come to act with love
The time has come to overcome fatigue and the refusal to see
It is time to live in hope !

In order to respond to the challenge of aids the churches must transform themselves so as to become agents of transformation themselves - able to offer healing and hope, to accompany those affected by AIDS and to condemn all forms of stigmatization.

The truth is that we are all created in the image of God. Discrimination or stigmatization of any human being is against God's will.

Geneviève Jacques
Director of Programmes

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