WASHINGTON, D.C., 23 June 2004 -- The role of faith-based organisations in providing care and support to children and young people affected by AIDS was the focus of a briefing on Capitol Hill today for congressional representatives and heads of major faith-based organisations.
Presenting at the briefing were experts from UNICEF, UNAIDS, the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Catholic Medical Mission Board and Rwanda’s most senior Muslim cleric.
“HIV/AIDS is crippling the dreams and future prospects of children and young people around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Edwin Judd, Director of Programs for UNICEF. “With their tremendous capacities for delivering direct support to communities, faith-based organisations are playing a critical role in responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis. But the need for greatly intensified action calls for stronger leadership, coordination and resources.”
UNICEF and Religions for Peace are working in partnership to help faith-based organisations respond even more effectively to the HIV/AIDS emergency. In 2003, they released a study of religious organizations in six African nations that highlights the considerable assistance faith-based groups have been providing to children who have been orphaned by AIDS. The study showed that of the 690 religious groups surveyed, more than 90 per cent support orphans working almost entirely with volunteers and without outside funds. Roughly half of those orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
During the briefing UNICEF, UNAIDS and Religions for Peace issued a joint publication, “What Religious Leaders Can Do About HIV/AIDS,” designed to help religious leaders use the trust and authority they have in their communities to change the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. (See http://www.unicef.org/publications/index_19024.html)
The publication both recognizes AIDS prevention and education work already undertaken by religious leaders and communities throughout the world, and calls on them to continue and expand activities to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and alleviate the suffering of children and adults affected by the disease.
“Religious leaders of all faiths have a tremendous responsibility to support their communities that are on the frontlines providing needed services, pastoral care to the dying, and comfort and support for surviving family and friends. A powerful and largely untapped resource, they are uniquely positioned to meet the complex challenges presented by HIV/AIDS,” said William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace. “This workbook is a direct response to their request for tools to help them take more effective leadership in these areas.”
The workbook spells out how religious leaders can change the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic by promoting responsible behaviour, increasing public knowledge, speaking out against stigma, and advocating for supportive policies and laws. It also discusses how they can redirect charitable resources and raise new funds for prevention, care and support and promote action from the grass roots up to the national level. And it answers a critical need, as demonstrated by requests from religious leaders around the world for translations into local languages.
Among specific measures suggested in the workbook are: organizing community members to document the number of orphans in the community and visit households affected by HIV/AIDS; raising HIV/AIDS issues with national and local leaders; addressing HIV/AIDS in sermons and prayers to help reduce stigma; and working with business leaders to develop faith-based connections to employee education and testing and counseling services.
"Catholic Medical Mission Board's experience with in-country faith-based partnerships has demonstrated the value of these networks because they are trusted institutions with a history of providing compassionate care,” said Jack Galbraith, President and CEO of CMMB. “The results heard today verify that and this workbook for religious leaders will only help to make faith-based organizations even more effective than they currently are."
Religious leaders have powerful voices in their communities, voices that can be used to help care for those who are vulnerable and eradicate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS. Not only can they help stop the spread of the disease, but they can evoke compassion and understanding for the millions of men, women and children struggling to cope with HIV/AIDS.
For further information, please contact:
Claudia Hite, Catholic Medical Mission Board, NY (212) 609-2581
Clarice Taylor, World Conference of Religions for Peace, New York (212) 687-2163 (ext. 23)
Founded in 1928, Catholic Medical Mission Board is the leading U. S.-based Catholic charity, focusing exclusively on international healthcare needs, particularly the well-being of women and children. In FY2003, total support to CMMB reached approximately US$142 million. That support allowed CMMB to develop healthcare programs and provide more than US$125 million in medicines, supplies and services to 50 countries. CMMB works collaboratively and without discrimination to deliver solutions to the HIV/AIDS pandemic from Africa to Asia, treat tuberculosis in Zambia, and provide primary healthcare in Latin America and the Caribbean. Global initiatives include: recruitment and placement of medical volunteers, medicine and medical supply shipments, emergency relief, and training grants for in-country primary healthcare workers.
For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
The World Conference of Religions for Peace is the largest international coalition bringing together representatives of the world’s religious communities who are dedicated to achieving peace. Respecting religious differences while celebrating our common humanity, Religions for Peace helps these leaders and communities join together to take action in areas such as conflict transformation, children, disarmament, peace education and women’s participation.