by Justus Waimiri
CAPA Communications Officer
[CAPA] The significance of the Church in the fight against HIV/AIDS has once again been brought to the fore after the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA) recently partnered with Christian Aid (UK) and the British Government, through DFID, to embark on a major R222 million (US$30.5 million) AIDS programme.
The programme dubbed 'Isiseko Sokomoleza' (Building the Foundation) was launched at a colourful ceremony at St Mary's Cathedral, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 23.
This is perhaps the largest funded AIDS programme in the world to be undertaken by a single faith-based community (FBO). CPSA contribution in human capital has been calculated at R177 million while Christian Aid and DFID will provide the further R45 million to create the combined value of R222 million.
Speaking at the launch, the Archbishop of Southern Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, said that the large amount of funds availed to the Church was a demonstration that the faith community could handle major programmes and realise results.
The Archbishop noted that there were more opportunities to thrust religious groups to the frontline of the AIDS battle and called for comprehensive and focused programmes to empower clergy and laity in integrating AIDS issues in their ministries.
After the official inauguration, delegates from all the 23 Dioceses of CPSA attended a three-day intensive consultation to refine their diocesan strategic plans, which had been developed earlier. Most of the plans identified reduction of stigma associated with AIDS, care and support as their primary objectives.
Some of the dioceses have developed innovative strategies to promote AIDS awareness that incorporates moral and spiritual values.
At the Provincial level, the Church has adopted a curriculum specifically designed to prepare theological and pastoral students to deal with the AIDS pandemic - in and out of the pulpit. Liturgy is also being tailored to accommodate AIDS.
The three-year "Isiseko Sokomoleza" programme is the first of its kind in many aspects, and it is hoped that similar programmes will be replicated in other Provinces and Dioceses in Africa.
The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) Secretariat is working with the Provinces to assist them develop and implement strategies that will mitigate the impact of AIDS in their communities.
Archbishop Ndungane, who also heads the CAPA AIDS Board, said, "Within the first year, we hope to demonstrate to the world and to the people of our parishes and communities that we live in the mission imperative that no one should care alone. No one should die alone. For we are all living with AIDS."