[WCC] A resource book titled Jamaica Praying: a manual for HIV and AIDS sensitive liturgies and sermons was launched last week by the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI). The resource aims to equip church workers to offer a sensitive response to people affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
The number of people living with HIV in Jamaica is around 30,000, while deaths due to AIDS can be counted annually at a rate of more than 1,300, according to recent UNAIDS reports.
The resource Jamaica Praying is inspired by the World Council of Churches (WCC) manual Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy, edited by Musa W. Dube in 2003. Dube, a theologian from Botswana, is a former consultant of the WCC’s Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa.
Jamaica Praying provides suggestions for an HIV sensitive use of the scriptures, liturgy and sermons in religious services. It includes references to poetry that may be used for discussions on the struggles of persons affected by HIV and AIDS. While the resource is developed mainly to support persons affected by HIV and AIDS, it is also a valuable tool for ministering to people with other health challenges.
The resource is expected to create an impact on women, men, youth and children within the communities served by churches to improve behaviours towards persons living with HIV and AIDS.
The long-term objective of the resource is to help achieve a reduction in the spread of the virus, as well as stigma and discrimination attached to persons living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.
Dr Leith Dunn, head of the Mona Unit of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, expressed appreciation for Jamaica Praying. At the book launch, Dunn noted diverse situations in which the manual could be used. She highlighted its use in schools as a tool for sexual and reproductive health and family life education. It is also a response to the needs of the young and the elderly. She said the manual provides guidelines for “what we can confess; what we can be thankful for; what we can pray for”.
In a letter to the UTCWI president on the launch of Jamaica Praying, Dr John Edward Greene, the United Nations Special Envoy on HIV for the Caribbean, appreciated the contribution of UTCWI in efforts to diminish the HIV epidemic by increasing the role of faith leaders as advocates of social justice for all.
The World Council of Churches also commends the publication. “We celebrate the publication and launching of Jamaica Praying. This resource comes at a time when the WCC is expanding its ecumenical HIV response beyond sub-Saharan Africa, including Jamaica, the Philippines and Ukraine following the mandate of the WCC 10th Assembly held in 2013 in the Republic of Korea,” said Rev. Dr Nyambura Njoroge, coordinator of the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate UTCWI leadership and the editors of Jamaica Praying. I look forward to strengthened partnership with UTCWI, the Jamaica Council of Churches and other partners in the region as we address the root causes of HIV pandemic, other social injustices and human sexuality,” added Njoroge.
Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy
Website of the United Theological College of the West Indies
More information: Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy