Megachurch to Kick Off Global AIDS Summit

Saddleback Church, home of "Purpose Driven" Pastor Rick Warren, is set to open its third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church on Wednesday.

More than 2,000 people are expected to attend the Nov 28-30 summit featuring more than 50 global keynote speakers and informative sessions led by experts in business, government, medicine, non-profits and ministry working locally and globally in the battle against AIDS.

"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is so large that it can't be stopped without the combined efforts of leadership in the public, private/profit and faith sectors," stated Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren and the person who launched the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church in 2003.

The popular husband and wife team has emphasized their belief that the Christian Church is the only truly global organization "existing in every country and in thousands of indigenous people groups that are not represented by the Untied Nations or any multi-national corporation."

Some 2.3 billion people who profess to be followers of Christ make Christianity the largest organization, widest network and biggest volunteer force on the planet, the Warrens pointed out.

In response, the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church – the only global HIV/AIDS conference built entirely around a grassroots church-based strategy – was designed to mobilize millions of congregations around the world to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

For three days, workshops will address topics such as orphans and vulnerable children, justice issues, HIV in Russia, HIV in China, HIV in the United States, HIV in resource-limited settings, and accessing government resources.

Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is scheduled to speak at the Global Summit on Thursday. Meanwhile, a video message will be shown from at least three of the other candidates from both parties during the same session.

A new feature at this year gathering is the first-annual Youth Summit on AIDS to be held on Saturday, Dec. 1 (World AIDS Day). The youth summit aims to prompt students to care for those with HIV and strengthen their knowledge, engage their abilities, and maximize their potential to assist to end the global pandemic.

Jenna Bush, First Daughter of President George W. Bush and author of "Ana's Story," will be among the featured speakers at the Youth Summit. Others include Shaun Blakeney, high school pastor at Saddleback; John Thomas, senior pastor of Fish Hoek Baptist Church in South Africa; and Francis Chan, teaching pastor at Cornerstone Community Church.

There are 33.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including 18 million women and children living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS/WHO.

The Saddleback HIV/AIDS initiative is a key part of the P.E.A.C.E. plan, an overarching humanitarian strategy launched three years ago. This worldwide effort is to mobilize 1 billion church members to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

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