World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

19 June 2001

WCC urges UN organizations to involve churches and faith-based organizations more closely in the fight against HIV/AIDS

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-06, of 6 March 2001
cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-15, of 31 May 2001

United Nations organizations, and especially the governments of member nations, should involve faith-based organizations and churches more closely in the fight against HIV/AIDS in future, says Manoj Kurian of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Issues and Themes cluster, as preparations go ahead for the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS, to be held in New York from 25 - 27 June.

The Malaysian doctor, whose mandate includes facilitating the WCC's HIV/AIDS programme, will attend the Special Session as part of a four-member WCC delegation. "The HIV/AIDS pandemic is so serious that it challenges all of us - UN agencies, faith-based organizations and local communities - to work intensively together. I would hope that such a commitment will be reflected in the text submitted to the Special Session."

According to Kurian, churches and church organizations provide between 40 and 70 percent of health care in Sub-Saharan Africa. "It is time that UNAIDS and other UN agencies further recognized the tremendous potential of churches and faith-based organizations and involved them in the planning, implementation and monitoring of HIV/AIDS programmes at local, national and international level. In the WCC, we recognize that church leadership needs to mobilize communities to equip them not only to take care of the sick and suffering, but also to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS," Kurian says.

This view also comes out clearly in a statement by church and faith-based organizations to be submitted to the UN Special Session by the WCC. In this statement, the faith-based organizations urge the UN organizations to involve religious leaders to the fullest possible extent in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to make use of their great moral and spiritual influence. "The statement is an offer of close collaboration and a call for all partners involved to utilize capacities and resources to the fullest extent," explains Kurian.

At the same time, the church and faith-based organizations also address religious leaders, urging them, amongst other things, to consider putting in place "programmes that would eliminate all traditional and cultural inequalities that exacerbate the vulnerability of women and children".

The ecumenical movement took up the challenge of HIV/AIDS back in the 80s. Since then the WCC has been chiefly active in the fields of pastoral care, social ministry and preventive education, as well as networking with national and international bodies.

A few weeks ago, Kurian presented a wide-ranging study, covering ten countries in West Africa, on how churches and ecumenical organizations in the region are facing up to the challenges of HIV/AIDS. Similar studies for other regions in the world are also underway.

Further information about the WCC's work in relation to HIV/AIDS can be found on this website, as can
a summarized version of the study "Churches and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: an analysis of the situation in 10 Central and West African countries"

The statement by the faith-based organizations will be available after it has been presented to the UN General Assembly.

A public briefing is planned for Wednesday, 27 June, 13.30-15.00, in UN Conference Room B. Media representatives are cordially invited to attend.

Members of the ecumenical delegation:

Dr Christoph Benn
Head of Department for Health Policy and Studies
German Institute for Medical Mission (DIFAEM)
Tubingen, Germany

Rev. Gideon Bymugisha
Health Secretary, Diocese of Namirembe
Director, Archbishop Carey Regional Resource and Training Centre
Anglican Church of Uganda

Dr Manoj Kurian
Programme Executive for Health and Healing
World Council of Churches Cluster on Issues and Themes
Geneva, Switzerland

Sr. Patricia Walsh
International Christian AIDS Network

During the UN Special Session the WCC Media Relations Office will arrange interviews with members of the delegation

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.