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The Role of the Church in Addressing the AIDS Crisis

HIV/AIDS continues to have a negative impact on families and communities throughout Africa.  Very few families, if any, have been spared the devastating effects of the scourge. This is the reality that confronts Africa today and the Church finds herself at the centre of this crisis as she deals with issues affecting families and communities. HIV/AIDS affects families and communities negatively in a variety of ways.  In communities around Africa women often bear an unfair burden in caring for the family. Children on the other hand are being forced to head families after the loss of parents to AIDS. Grandparents, and in particular grandmothers, are returning to being primary caregivers of small children.

HIV/AIDS is fuelling poverty more and more, creating an ongoing spiral of disease and poverty that is undermining family stability. Children are forced out of school and women and girls, in some instances, are pressured into becoming commercial sex workers.  These are some among the many issues that the Church can and must address.

A proper faith-based response to HIV/AIDS should involve a practical multi-pronged approach that aims to stop the spread of the disease, and encourage the setting up of community based support of children orphaned by AIDS.

This crisis caused by the pandemic provides an unparalleled opportunity for witness to the gospel through HIV/AIDS services and other promotional activities and advocacy.  The Church through its ministry programs such as youth services, men's and women's ministries, bible study groups and other ministry groups can play a major role by providing awareness, support, education and care to those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The church should become a place of openness where persons whose lives are affected can freely share their pain and reach out for compassion, understanding and acceptance. The Church should provide care and support to individuals and families whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS. The Church should be a centre of education where people are informed about AIDS and receive support and encouragement to help men, women and young people to change their behaviour.

The Way Forward:

  • In the light of these opportunities and challenges, the Church can respond in the following ways:
  • Focus more attention on family-related issues such as sexual education and marriage enrichment.
  • Encourage pastors and Church leaders to provide more teachings about HIV/AIDS   and family matters in the pulpit, classroom and any other platform of the Church.
  • Develop more materials and provide opportunities to open discussion on issues to do with HIV and AIDS.
  • Address issues of economic empowerment to help break the downward spiral of poverty which open up doors for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • Provide adequate care and support for vulnerable children and people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Stand alongside widows and those affected by HIV/AIDS and speak against all forms of stigma and discrimination against those infected with the HI virus.
  • Offer a helping hand to those needing care and support.

The Church has great potential to make a difference in mitigating the negative effects of HIV/AIDS and as such, the Church must and should commit to marshal resources and sharpen tools to challenge people to make the Church the centrepiece in our Christian response to HIV/AIDS.

by Cosmos Alfas Mutowa Executive Director – NCM Africa

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“Choose Life” session enlightened my future

Muhudin A/Dura a young seventeen year-old tenth grade student at Sokoru Secondary School in Ethiopia was known to have bad habits and an addiction to substances like alcohol and khat, a highly addictive drug.  Muhudin spent all his time in the streets. However, all this changed after Muhudin started attending “Choose Life” sessions organised by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) through its partner Fayyaa Integrated Development Association (FIDA). This project has been made possible through funding received from USAID.

The aim of this project is to eliminate new HIV infections by positively impacting the lives of young single and married individuals by changing the behaviour of unmarried youth through committing to abstinence from sex before marriage and for those who are married to remain faithful to their spouse.

After attending a number of behavioural change sessions, Muhudin stopped chewing khat and refrained himself from drinking alcohol as he realised that these were instrumental in his engaging in sexual acts, thus putting him at risk of being infected with the HIV virus.  He started living an exemplary life and became a well-disciplined young person in his village town, Sokoru.

Currently, Muhudin also started to declare the importance of attending Choose Life sessions and became a Leader of one of the youth groups. Muhudin himself testified by saying, “These Choose Life sessions have changed my life for good and I can boldly say that I will not return back to my bad life style that I had been practicing before.  I am working very hard to convince my friends and others to adopt a good behavior by organizing and preparing entertainment events such as drama and theater”.

Adapted from NPI FIDA's report received in January 2009

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Durban Deep - Caring for the Orphans

Caring for the orphaned children from a local government school in Durban Deep became the passion and focus of the Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Horizon, Roodepoort, South Africa.  When Pastor Naas Tredoux launched an outreach to the community. He began by asking the community schools if there was anything the church could do to make a difference in the lives of the children.  Initially, the plan was to work with a school more in the direct community, but when it was suggested the church explore helping a very needy school with many orphaned children, it was clear this was where God wanted to the church to focus.

This partnership with Durban Deep began in September 2010 when a team of workers came from the United States to help.  For five days this team, along with members of the church, the school was given almost a complete facelift. Chairs, walls and floors were scrubbed, some rooms painted, curtains made and hung, kitchen and other areas repaired to full functioning.

In October, a team of more than twenty adults from the church accompanied almost fifty orphans to the Johannesburg Zoo.  Most of the children had never been to the zoo.  Each adult was able to spend the day visiting the zoo, eating lunch, riding rides and having cool drink and sweets with the children.  This opportunity to build relationship was incredible for the adults and children.

In December, eight orphans from Durban Deep will have the opportunity to go on a Christian youth camp at not cost for a week. It is unfortunate more children can't attend and have an experience most likely not available to them.

by Dr Denise Anderson

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