More Christian Sectors Tackling AIDS Head-On

A word once shunned by churches is now overwhelmingly embraced as Christians mobilize to confront one of the world’s leading causes of death.

Christians ranging from megachurch pastors to humanitarian workers to students are increasingly moving to the forefront in the battle against AIDS.

“On December 1, World AIDS Day, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joins with millions of people in hundreds of countries to take up this theme [“Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.”],” wrote the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in a statement released Wednesday.

Hanson is joined by megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels in the call for Christians to become more aware and involved in the AIDS crisis. The ELCA presiding bishop believes it is the responsibility of Christians to display God’s love and mercy to the sick and ostracized.

“Our promises as Christian religious leaders are grounded in our faith in God, who is steadfast in love, constant in mercy and persistent in justice, and in Jesus Christ, who is God’s promise of faithfulness in human flesh,” wrote Hanson.

Meanwhile, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), which has 180 campuses worldwide, is urging Christian students to get involved in the AIDS movement. CCCU has asked local chapters to participate in conference calls to help create greater awareness of World AIDS Day. Also the association encourages members to promote Acting on AIDS – a program started by Christian colleges to create awareness and activism of the global AIDS pandemic.

Other organizations have narrowed their focus to the most vulnerable in society – the poor and orphaned.

Mercy Ships, a ministry that uses hospital ships to deliver free health care services to the poor, has helped tackle the AIDS crisis in Ghana by implementing HIV/AIDS Prevention Education program in one of the poorest community in the country – a community which has an HIV/AIDS infection rate twice that of the national average. The program – which aims to prevent the spread of HIV through greater awareness, education, caring, and counseling – will be implemented during the ship’s 10 month port stay.

A Church World Service-sponsored program called Giving Hope focuses on helping AIDS orphans. The organization notes that more than 11 million children are now orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Giving Hope has helped some 18,500 orphans in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya learn how to survive through building small businesses and care for their younger siblings.

“We are called to follow Jesus as disciples,” concluded Hanson, “to stand in solidarity with those whom society deems to be marginalized, to offer healing to those who are vulnerable, and to lay down our lives to love for our neighbor.”

The Purpose Driven Network and Saddleback Valley Community Church began its second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church summit on Thursday. The Summit features nearly 60 speakers with more than 1,700 Christian leaders expected to attend.

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