By Lord Carey of Clifton Tearfund Vice President & former Archbishop of Canterbury
When I see the devastation that HIV and AIDS are wreaking across Africa, I can understand why people talk of losing hope. My wife and I have seen evidence of this terrible scourge in South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere. Families, communities, whole nations are in the grip of an appalling pandemic which is gnawing away at the very fabric of society.
But there is hope, even in remote communities decimated by disease and largely overlooked by the res t of humanity. I ha ve s een it firs t-hand. And much of this hope lies in the hands of African churches which, for years, have been on the front line of care for millions of people living with HIV and AIDS. For these people of faith, hope is not abstract: it’s something practical and powerful. It is s een when someone holds a child’s hand as his mother s lowly slips away; and it is seen when a church leader risks his reputation by having an HIV test and sets the example for others to do the same.
The churches and their vast networks of volunteers are one of the few groups which are wrestling with the pandemic at close quarters every single day. And yet they receive little recognition and scant funding from outside sources; in some cases churches’ capacity is being stretched to breaking point.
And yet churches are als o part of the problem . Many people of faith need to think long and hard about the part they have played in feeding the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS. Churches represent vast untapped potential to change behaviour and attitudes. If we put our own house in order and if we are properly resourced and trained, churches and other faith groups could become one of single most effective strategies for tackling the
We are at a critical juncture: we have international targets for halting the relentless march of HIV and AIDS, and a consensus among donors and governments that this is a real possibility. The funding and political will are falling into place. The challenge now is to ensure that international action translates into results in the worst-hit areas – and in this, I believe, churches have a crucial role to play.
Faith Untapped [668k].
Lord Carey of Clifton