23 July 2018, Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a founder of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+), kneels in a concluding word of prayer. Gathered in a "common voice" religious leaders from a multitude of religions “urgently demand that the world recommit to ending AIDS and that world leaders take strong action to ensure this epidemic is finally brought to an end." On 23 July, an international Interfaith Memorial and Prayer Service takes place in the Keizersgrachtkerk in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Gathering local congregants together with international guests, the service takes place in connection with the 2018 International AIDS Conference, held in Amsterdam on 23-27 July.


The workshop is being coordinated by several United Nations agencies, National AIDS Council, Interfaith Network, World Council of Churches and others. There was a poignant moment during the opening ceremony when the workshop paused to celebrate the life of Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, the INERELA+ director who passed away on 5 July.

Opening the training, Sophia Mukasa Monico, Zimbabwe UN country director, said that religious leaders were strategically placed to contribute towards the HIV response. Great strides are being made in the fight against HIV/AIDS with the UNAIDS 2021-2026 strategy and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS,” said Monico.

Ezra Chitando, WCC Southern Africa regional coordinator, expressed appreciation to the UN agencies for partnering with faith communities in the response to HIV. Working collaboratively will ensure that we meet national, continental and regional development objectives,” he said. Facilitators emphasised the point that meaningful engagement with men and boys is being increasingly recognized as critical to advancing gender equality and equity.

The Interfaith Network acknowledges the importance of working with men and boys as supportive partners or as agents of social change. One of the organisers and a representative of the Interfaith Network, Hannah Mafunda, said, Faith communities have an unparalleled institutional base to advocate for and promote comprehensive sexuality education, address gender inequalities and male engagement in HIV, sexual and reproductive health rights and gender-based violence.”

Workshop topics include the importance of male engagement in faith communities, case studies of successful programmes targeting men and boys, men and gender-based violence, comprehensive sexuality education and others.