Dr Erlinda N. Senturias speaks at the WCC Central Committee meeting in 2005. Photo: Peter Williams/WCC

Dr Erlinda N. Senturias speaks at the WCC Central Committee meeting in 2005. Photo: Peter Williams/WCC

In 2018 we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. In order to create a lively firsthand account of the ecumenical fellowship and of our shared journey, member churches have contributed stories of people, events, achievements and even failures, all of which have deepened our collective search for Christian unity.

This prayer was written by Dr Erlinda N. Senturias, from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Any views or opinions expressed in this prayer are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the World Council of Churches.

All glory, laud, and honor to God, the healer and giver of abundant life to us all. Indeed God is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

We come before your sacred presence in gratefulness for your guidance to the World Council of Churches (WCC) as an ecumenical movement that creates safe spaces for churches to talk about unity amidst diversity and reach consensus on critical issues of our time.

We are grateful that as of 1986, the WCC began to talk about the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) with the help of the World Health Organization. It was a time when many of the churches would rather be silent or even stop research on HIV. Through that initial HIV forum in the WCC Central Committee meeting of 1986 organized by the Church and Society programme, the Central Committee came out with a statement on HIV.

The Christian Medical Commission took the work forward through the development of educational materials that make the virus more understandable to the people in our churches, both clergy and lay.

The focus on learning about HIV challenged our judgmental attitudes that “spread the virus much faster than the virus itself.” For this, O God of Love, accept our shortcoming as churches.

We thank you for dedicated women and men who pioneered the development of these basic educational materials to make HIV and AIDS easier to understand by church people in different continents of the world. Those who found the materials very useful translated them to their local languages with support from the WCC. We are grateful to our funding partners and to the people who invested time and resources to spread the preventive messages on HIV in words and in actions that further evolved our understanding on the various dimensions of the virus, beyond the scientific worldview.

In the nineties, WCC formed consultative groups from representatives in the various regions and we struggled together to understand the theological, ethical, pastoral care and counseling, human rights and justice issues posed by the HIV pandemic. I have lived through these years of accompanying the churches in various continents from the Pacific to Africa and here in Europe. I have friends who accompanied me in planning meetings and would not be able to come for the actual meeting as they have themselves died from opportunistic infections.  One lay theologian in desperation cut his life short thinking of the wasting of his body at the time when the cure was not yet more effective. We mourned for their lives and remembered the prayers and songs they have contributed to make us realize that we need to be emboldened to work on God’s mission of health, healing and wholeness.

In our studies, we saw the need to explore human sexuality through the Ecumenical Institute, as a laboratory for discussing sensitive ideas that member churches were not yet ready to talk about. We are grateful that the colleagues in mission and evangelism and the WCC publication office published the work.

We were helped when we involved meaningfully, the people living with HIV as they understand the situation better. We learned much as we worked with other non-governmental organizations and the UNAIDS in facing the challenge of HIV together.

We were challenged by the people living with HIV to address the basic issues of stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action. To our delight, it is the meaningful participation of religious leaders living and affected with HIV that led us to a better understanding on what needs to be done. Because of available medication and greater knowledge on dealing with the virus, they are most active in evangelizing us on your healing power and salvation.

The work in Africa, leaped forward the ministry on HIV with the involvement of people in theological institutions and pastoral care and counseling workers. Many materials were developed from the region. Many organizations were formed.

We are grateful for the work of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) that focused on HIV since 2000 and INERELA (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS) for the expansion of the work not only in Africa but in other continents of the world like Asia and North America. We are grateful that HIV became a rallying ground for interfaith organizations to talk together about the issue of HIV. We are grateful to the contribution of the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, which was supported by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the WCC and EAA.

May the advances of medical science benefit all the people and make treatment affordable for all.

O God of grace, we are most grateful for your love to each one of us. We believe that the commandment to love you and love one another are better shown in your mission of addressing HIV.

As we move to the fiftieth year of HIV in 2030, may the ecumenical movement continue to be a beacon of support for the continuing work on health and healing. We cannot let our guards down, O God. Much more needs to be done. Make us bold to Go, Preach, Baptize, Teach and Heal in your Name. We hold the great promise, that You will be with us.

Make us channels of your blessings and healing together with the least of our brothers and sisters. Bless us dear God, and empower us with your Spirit.

We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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