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Episcopal, African Cooperation Nets $10 Million AIDS Grant

Posted on: October 8, 2004 11:06 AM
Related Categories: USA

The Primate of Southern Africa, the Bishop of Washington and a canon from the Diocese of Florida have teamed up to win a $10 million grant to combat HIV/AIDS through the work of the Anglican church in southern Africa, the United States Agency for International Development announced this week.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Bishop John B. Chane and the Rev. Canon Robert V. Lee of FreshMinistries, an ecumenical non-profit organization in Jacksonville, Florida, worked together on the grant which will allow the Church of the Province of Southern Africa to hire hundreds of young outreach workers and indigenous leaders who will be trained to offer age-appropriate instruction in AIDS prevention to children and young adults.

The grant is part of President Bush's $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Eleven organizations, including nine faith-based organizations, won the five-year grants through a competitive awards process.

We are in the midst of a terrible crisis, and this grant from USAID comes not a moment too soon, said Ndungane. This $10 million, and whatever resources might follow, will radically decrease the rate of HIV/AIDS infections throughout southern Africa.

I am thrilled that our diocese has played a role in putting these resources into the hands of our brothers and sisters in southern Africa, said Chane, whose diocese formed a partnership with Ndungane's province at its annual convention in January. They have been battling this disease for more than a decade, and we're just so honored to have opened a few doors for them in official Washington.

The grant will be administered by FreshMinistries, an ecumenical aid and development agency that was founded by the Rev. Lee, canon for outreach in the Diocese of Florida, and raises its own funding.

Lee said the program in southern Africa will be modeled on practices pioneered in Uganda where HIV/AIDS rates have dropped dramatically due to changes in sexual behavior. Among its priorities are teaching abstinence before marriage, fidelity during marriage, increasing the number of people who know their HIV status, promoting open discussion about the disease, and decreasing the stigma that surrounds AIDS in much of Africa.

We've found that partnerships lead to better outcomes and globally arrived-at solutions are critical if we are to succeed in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, said Lee. FreshMinistries and the Diocese of Washington have many partnerships to draw on already and will work together to develop more that are ready to take the lessons learned in Uganda and help apply them elsewhere in Africa.

The Anglican Province of Southern Africa includes the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola and the kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho. In South Africa nearly 5 million people are infected with HIV. Swaziland has the highest infection rate in the world, approximately 40 percent.

The Anglican Church already provides a range of services related to HIV/AIDS including prevention, education, care of the sick care and education of orphans, voluntary counseling and testing in Southern Africa. The Right Rev. David Beetge, dean of the Province of Southern Africa, said the grant will make possible a tremendous increase in both the scope and the effectiveness of our efforts.

Both Archbishop Ndungane and Bishop Chane said the grant came at an important time for the Anglican Communion, which has experienced upheaval over its member provinces conflicting teachings on homosexuality. The conflict has been most intense between the Episcopal Church in the United States and many of the provinces in Africa. Earlier this week, Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria, held a news conference at Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, where he announced his intention to starting an alternative Anglican church under Nigerian jurisdiction in the United States.

Archbishop Ndungane and Bishop Chane said that their cooperation with each other and with FreshMinistries exemplified a different approach to working through the conflict. This is a wonderful example of how different provinces can work together to build God's Kingdom, and witness to the Gospel, Ndungane said. The needs of God's people mandate that we persevere with one another, rather than letting our differences tear the Communion apart.

The group that secured the grant first met in January when Ndungane and Beetge came to Washington for the diocesan convention. They, Chane and Lee met with representatives of the White House and Department of Health and Human Services' faith-based initiatives. Chane and the South Africans also met with Ambassador Randall Tobias, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.