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South Africa celebrates AIDS Awareness Day

Posted on: December 2, 2002 3:17 PM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane will celebrate an AIDS Awareness Day service at St James Anglican Church in Soweto, South Africa, on Sunday 1 December.

Confirming his decision to preside at the inter-denominational worship he said, "We need to shout from the roof-tops that AIDS is not Gods punishment of the wicked. It is a virus and not a sin, and the stigma that society has created around the epidemic is causing people to die instead of living positively. Societys ignorance and judgmental attitude is discouraging people from testing early enough to manage the disease and creating a hell on earth for families who are too ashamed to seek the help they need."

The Revd Charles May, rector of St James Church said that representatives of several Christian denominations, including Apostolic Faith, Methodists and Lutherans, would be taking part.

The Diepkloof Interdenominational Churches, from Soweto, kicked off the AIDS awareness campaign on 16 November with a march through the streets to Diepkloof Police Station where they handed over the following declaration on behalf of the community:

We, of the Christian faith in Diepkloof hereby affirm our commitment to the people of God suffering from AIDS. We are gravely concerned for all our people because we acknowledge that AIDS has become a human emergency in our community.

We confess our silence, which has led to stigma and despair for our people. We confess that we have been too slow to respond to the crisis. We confess that we have not lived the fullness of the demands of God upon our lives and we offer our humble apology for silence, in-action and shame.

Therefore, we humbly repent and ask Gods forgiveness and mercy upon all his people and upon ourselves. The silence has ended. Action has begun and we declare that God is with us in this struggle.

We pledge never again to allow our people who are infected or affected by AIDS to suffer through our lack of teaching and example.

We declare that AIDS is a not a punishment from God, it is a disease.

We declare HIV is a virus, and not a sin.

We denounce all forms of discrimination, especially stigmatisation of people living with AIDS and declare that such discrimination is sinful.

Never again must our people be too fearful of stigma to be tested for HIV and AIDS so that they may live positively instead of dying untreated, in shame and in silence.

Never again must we fail our people by not teaching them Christian values with regard to sexual behaviour.

Never again must we fail to show compassion through practical support for those needing home based care, counselling, education and non-judgmental Christian love.

We commit ourselves to sharing responsibility with government, business and civil society by lending support to, educating people about AIDS, relieving the plight of the infected and affected, and encouraging shared leadership.

We commit ourselves before God and the world. We are accountable for our actions; measured by our words, and hopeful in our faith.

God give us strength to practice in our lives, what we have said with our lips, and give us the grace and power to do it.