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close this bookJourney into Hope: Consultation with Christian Leaders, Development Organisations and UNAIDS on HIV/AIDS Related Issues (UNAIDS - Best Practice Digest, 2000, 3 p.)
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Journey Into Hope: Consultation with Christian Leaders, Development Organisations and UNAIDS on HIV/AIDS Related Issues

Extracted from the Consultation report - Journey into Hope. Consultation with Christian leaders, Development Organisations and UNAIDS on HIV/AIDS Related Issues. 20-23 September 1999, Gaborone, Botswana. Requests for copies should be sent to; Health Services, Salvation Army International Headquarters, 101 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4P 4EP,UK. E-mail: Ian-Campbell@salvationarmy.org

In 1997, Calle Almedal, UNAIDS Senior NGO Liaison Officer, proposed to Ian Campbell of the Salvation Army International facilitation team, that it was time for an expression of collaborative community-based response to HIV/AIDS by Christian church leaders, especially in Africa. This was also proposed with the view that churches in the south could be advocates with their sister churches in the north. An awakening of conscience, compassionate commitment and action was the chief purpose of the consultation.

A working group representing several Christian faith based organisations was formed, and it led to a consultation in Gaborone, hosted by the Botswana Christian Council, with 46 participants from 19 countries. Before the consultation, most participants joined in an exposure visit; there were six teams in four countries, observing and experiencing the local home and neighbourhood reality. Together they reflected on the strengths seen, the challenges facing people affected by HIV and the effort to form some pathways into a more secure future.

In a Vision Statement prepared by the working group prior to the consultation, the response to HIV/AIDS so far by the Christian communities was acknowledged. But it was also pointed out that the convictional motivation of faith and human experience has not generated response widely or quickly enough in churches in a global sense. Undeniably, local action has often been started by Christian churches or organisations connected to them in places such as Uganda, Zambia, Thailand, Ecuador and Russia, but the potential capacity for spiritual and programme development is largely untapped. So the international expansion of progress is limited because a large potentially potent yet still latent passion in people is not being developed.

Concept analysis was the foundation of the consultation process - On each successive day the key concept of care and community; loss, hope and future; and change were explored, mainly through sharing, and reflecting on, experiences in communities linked to some key theological foundations.

The Consultation Opening included statements from:

· David Modiega, General Secretary, Botswana Christian Council: ‘You have come to Botswana at a time when we are counting bodies. There is more pain, less joy. ....The question that we are asking in churches now is: Are we giving time to worship? Have we become too busy with death? There are more questions as church: who are we engaging with? Are we there? Are we carrying out our advocacy role? Are we in denial?’

· Archbishop Makhulu, Botswana: ‘Philoxenia means hospitality to strangers. Hospitality is the opposite of xenophobia (fear of people different from us). Wholeness even in the face of lameness of love and in deprivation is possible. A community without compassion is dead, it is a loose entity of disjointed people....Christians may deny the suffering of AIDS, with self righteousness, condemning those suffering from HIV/AIDS. Yet we are connected. Community is about concentric circles of relationships. We must maintain commitment to the suffering community, and the practices of confession and hospitality.’

Actual results of the consultation were:

1. Personal change: ‘I had taken AIDS as an eccentric issue. The consultation has helped me to see it as a problem of my people.’ ‘AIDS will not be a secret anymore - I will discuss it openly with my children.’

2. Application within countries.

· Local action (for example, Botswana participants met immediately after the consultation to plan for widespread local engagements).

· In-country communication (e -mail, other)

· Consultations in-country to generate action

3. Applications between countries - mutual support through established networks, by informal links or shared action

4. Media interest in the impact in Botswana

5. South-North engagement has been strengthened from the perspective of Christian churches in Africa with international linkages. There is raised consciousness regarding the need for advocacy internationally, so that the voices in Africa are heard, respected and appreciated, and so that it can be genuinely understood that Africa is not alone in its difficult journey into hope. It is clear that the participants as church leaders and facilitators need to challenge, provoke and inspire within Africa and beyond.

6. Processes and tools for follow-up - for example, the ‘E group’ to be co-ordinated by Dan Odallo, UNAIDS, Pretoria, to help people communicate, share documentary resources and coordinate participatory learning processes.

7. Consolidation of the International Partnership on AIDS in Africa (IPAA) through at least one significant expression - collaboration between church leaders, Christian development organisations and UNAIDS.