World Council of Churches

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

You are here: Home / Press centre / News / WCC mourns passing of Calle Almedal

WCC mourns passing of Calle Almedal

WCC mourns passing of Calle Almedal

Calle Almedal. © Roy Carlegard

11 June 2018

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is mourning the death of Calle Almedal, a great friend of WCC and of all faith communities, as well as a pioneer in the field of HIV. Almedal passed away on 7 June.

"As a fierce and courageous supporter of the rights of people living with HIV, he pushed faith communities to face the reality of HIV, address the issues related to human sexuality in a forthright and holistic manner, and to embrace people living with HIV in the context of our faith,” said Rev. Dr Nyambura Njoroge, WCC programme executive for Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (EHAIA).

Though he never minced his words or blunted his criticism of faith communities, during his role as senior advisor to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, based in Geneva, from 1999-2007, he was a close advisor to the WCC Health and Healing Programme and had a vital role in initiating, advising and developing EHAIA. Almedal was a member of the International Reference Group (IRG) of EHAIA from its creation, until his retirement from UNAIDS. Following his retirement, he also worked as an advisor on a part-time basis for the WCC for three years.

“Calle Almedal was one of the first who taught me what the struggle against HIV and AIDS meant for those affected, and what it should be for the church and the ecumenical movement," said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches and added “ I am deeply grateful for all he has done to make the churches competent in this respect. His life was a witness to ecumenical movement of love.”

Dr Isabel Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, reflected: “Calle's contribution has been massive - from coining the term ‘AIDS competent churches’, to courageously supporting the rights of people living with HIV, to standing by EHAIA from its infancy to the most challenging times of financial crisis, and contributing written works to the Ecumenical Review. It was my privilege to serve on the EHAIA IRG with Calle. We will miss him, but his legacy will live on.”

“Calle had a deep understanding of human behaviour, tempered with compassion for one and all. He had a critical mind, asking uncomfortable questions, promoting self-evaluation,”commented Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. “He had a vision of the role faith plays to mobilize and equip churches and religious communities to become both compassionate and competent in dealing with HIV, and he made it happen!”

Almedal was born in Sweden in 1945, and was a practicing Catholic who trained in theology and had degrees in nursing and public health. He was a visionary who participated and contributed to the conference in Denver in 1983 that resulted in the “Denver Declaration” which paved the way for people living with HIV to create a self-empowerment movement. Before joining UNAIDS, he worked for the Norwegian Red Cross, in different regions in countries ranging from Mozambique, Yemen, Lebanon, Thailand, and Laos.

Prof. Musa Dube, the celebrated theologian and ecumenical scholar from Botswana, said: “We celebrate the life of Calle Almedal for the light of passion and compassion that he courageously lit during the critical years of the struggle against HIV and AIDS in the world. Although he passes on, his light continues to shine on. The world continues to be a better place through his work of courage and compassion. His soul truly rests in peace!”

In the December 2011 edition of “Ecumenical Review,” Almedal wrote a text entitled “A Thirty-Year Personal Journey with HIV.” He describes how the WCC was the first international organization to seriously take up HIV as a challenge.

He wrote: “HIV has come as a spotlight and gives us insights about ourselves and our churches that we did not have before. It is up to us to try to sort it all out, and with the personal knowledge of many working in this field, I am rather confident that this will bring on the issues and confront those who need to be confronted. I also think this can be done in respectful and non-judgmental ways, even if in some cases, it will be extremely difficult.”

Full text, “A Thirty-Year Personal Journey with HIV,” by Calle Almedal, “Ecumenical Review,” December 2011.

WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy

WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance