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Jun 29, 2004

Churches look for ways to deal with AIDS

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Church leaders from across the country have taken a break from their congregations to attend a three day workshop in Belize City, dealing with pastoral care for people infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Organized by a group called the Commission for a Faith Based Response to HIV/AIDS, the workshop is the second attempt at enlisting the cooperation of the church, across denominational lines, in fighting the deadly disease. Anglican Bishop Sylvestre Romero Palma says AIDS is a challenge not only to religious organisations, but the whole of society.

Bishop Sylvestre Romero Palma, Anglican Church

?It means even those persons who are non-Christians or other religious denominations; it?s everybody who needs to be involved. And we need to take on that responsibility, children right up to the older folks, they have a role to play. It?s not only for us as Christians, but everybody I think it?s our responsibility.?

Patrick Jones

?Given that a large part of the AIDS epidemic has to do with behaviour, how can you as a pastor effectively deal with it in your congregation without stepping on anybody?s toes??

Bishop Sylvestre Romero Palma

?That?s a good question. I think that whenever we speak to somebody, first of all, we need to speak the truth. And it?s the truth that hurts, and so we will always be stepping on people?s toes if they are doing something that is wrong.?

Patrick Jones

?Is the church ready to deal with this in its congregation??

Bishop Sylvestre Romero Palma

?The church must be ready; it?s not a matter of is the church ready. I think, for example, in my role as a leader of the church we need to understand that, that [for] the church it?s not a matter of being ready, but that it is our duty, that is our responsibility be able to speak out.?

Canon Philip Wright, Anglican Church

?This workshop that we are organising is to sort of hopefully expose pastors and those involved in the pastoral care of the sick and so forth, with some skills that can help them in that ministry, specifically aimed at those suffering from HIV and AIDS and affected families as well.?

Patrick Jones

?Can it work just simply by the pastor from the pulpit telling his congregation to be careful??

Canon Philip Wright

?No, I think it has to go beyond that. And that is also a part of the purpose of the workshop, to expose us to where we can also be in the trenches if you will, meeting with these people, advocating for them, and making sure that as a society, as community, we are sensitive to the need to provide the best quality care for people such as these individuals.?

At the end of the workshop on Thursday, organisers say they hope to compile recommendations into a manual for use in churches and communities around the country. The workshop on pastoral care for persons affected and infected with HIV and AIDS is being supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

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