World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

26 June 2001

Broad support for WCC-facilitated interfaith statement during
UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS

cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-18, of 25 June 2001
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-16, of 19 June 2001
cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-15, of 31 May 2001

More and more faith-based organizations are endorsing the interfaith statement for the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) on HIV/AIDS. The statement, which was facilitated by the World Council of Churches (WCC), calls for increased partnership between faith-based organizations, governments and inter-governmental organizations. Endorsed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and inter-faith organizations, the statement was issued on Monday, 25 June.

"This broad support will allow us to work closer together in the future", says Christoph Benn, the coordinator of an ecumenical team attending the Session on behalf of the WCC. Benn welcomed the joint statement, which "will open new opportunities in both AIDS care and prevention. It will lead out of the current antagonism that is hampering the efforts of both governments and faith-based organizations."

Amongst the organizations which signed up after the statement was released are the Salvation Army, the World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA), the World Alliance of Young Women's Christian Associations (YWCA), Church Women United, the Family Life Movement of Zambia and Medical Assistance Programme (MAP) International.

"Faith-based organizations are rooted in local structures and are therefore in an excellent position to mobilize communities to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis," the document argues. Yet the experience of the faith-based organizations is that they "are often overlooked" by governments and inter-governmental organizations.

In their joint statement, the endorsing organizations promote HIV prevention strategies such as temporary abstinence, delayed sexual activity in young people, voluntary testing and counselling, mutual faithfulness in sexual relationships, and the use of condoms.

The statement also urges religious leaders, to "raise the consciousness of leaders and members at all levels", to train "them on HIV/AIDS prevention and care" and to advocate "fair and equal access to care and treatment according to need and not depending on economic affluence, ethnic background or gender".

Although the endorsing faith-based organizations realize that they "cannot claim to speak for all world religions and religious organizations", they express in the document "their sincere commitment to continue to work within our own communities for the dignity and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, for an attitude of care and solidarity that rejects all forms of stigma and discrimination, for an open atmosphere of dialogue in which the sensitive root causes of HIV/AIDS can be addressed, and for a strong advocacy to mobilize all the necessary resources for an effective global response to the pandemic".

The statement by faith-based organizations has been endorsed and supported by:

Anglican Communion
Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid in the Netherlands
Christian Aid, UK
Church Women United, USA
Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) - Office for Ecumenical Relations and Ministries Abroad
Family Life Movement of Zambia
Institute for Islamic Studies, Mumbai, India
International Christian AIDS Network
International Council of Jewish Women, UK
MAP International
Presbyterian Church USA - International Health Ministries Office
Religion Counts, interfaith organization based in Washington, D.C.
Salvation Army
United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India
World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)
World Alliance of Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)
World Conference on Religion and Peace
World Council of Churches (WCC)
World Vision International.
The statement by faith-based organizations is available on

Members of the WCC delegation:

Dr Christoph Benn, co-ordinator of the Ecumenical Team facilitated by the WCC, Germany;
Rev. Gideon Bymugisha, Anglican Church of Uganda;
Dr Manoj Kurian, Programme Executive for Health and Healing, WCC;
Sr. Patricia Walsh, International Christian AIDS Network, Zimbabwe.
During the UN Special Session of the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS the WCC Media Relations Office will arrange interviews with the members of the delegation: please contact (++1) 646.734-9058 or (++1) 917.453-3106 in New York or (+41.22) 791.61. 53 in Geneva.

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 337, 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.