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Africa: Religious Leaders Focus on AIDS

June 14, 2004

Speakers at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) meeting in Nairobi said member churches should organize, pool resources, and ordain female clergy in order to better fight the continent's AIDS pandemic. The four-day gathering of over 187 church leaders ended Friday.

"It is imperative that a policy framework of a concerted broad ecumenical thrust be established for the continent to consolidate resources and accompany local communities in their struggles to bring new hope among the poor and the suffering, most of whom are women," said Mvume Dandala, AACC General Secretary.

"Most churches are headed by men. This is the problem Christianity has, especially in Africa," said Mercy Amba Oduyoye, theology professor at the University of Ghana and former World Council of Churches deputy general secretary. "If any change has to be made in regard to women clergy addressing HIV/AIDS and the toll it has on women, then the church must start embracing the ordination of women," she said.

After he visited Rwanda last month, AACC President Nyansako-Ni-Nku said he became more aware of the sexual violence that often accompanies civil war. "We were exposed to the specter of HIV/AIDS, most of the victims being helpless women and their daughters raped during the 1994 genocide."

The meeting also resolved to promote AIDS prevention strategies including condom use, despite previous reservations by certain religious leaders that advocating condom use would promote promiscuity. "We as churches have got to call people to observe their moral responsibilities: faithfulness in marriage and abstinence outside marriage. Having said that, because of the extent of the disease, there is room for condom use," Dandala said.

AACC additionally embraced and pledged to support the World Health Organization's initiative to treat 3 million people in poor countries by 2005. Over 40 percent of Africa's medical facilities are church-managed.

Back to other news for June 14, 2004

Excerpted from:
Inter Press Service
06.11.04; Joyce Mulama

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