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ECUMENICAL WORSHIP SERVICE MARKS WORLD AIDS
November 30, 2001, NEW YORK CITY An ecumenical worship service, held here this morning to mark World AIDS Day, drew particular attention to the impact of AIDS on women. The service also lifted up the churches commitment to working on behalf of people with AIDS, especially in Africa.
Bishop Alfred Johnson (right) of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, United Methodist Church, brought a "word from the churches." God feels, hears and knows people's pain, he said, and is close at hand wherever there is trouble and suffering.
"As AIDS is devastating entire nations, killing thousands each day around the world," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service (CWS), "we commit ourselves to fight this epidemic by advocating for sufficient resources to fight the disease, immediate access to affordable medication, and eradication of poverty and an increase in educational opportunities in the countries most affected."
Todays service was held in the chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations, and was co-sponsored by CWS and the "Ecumenical Working Group" of faith-based NGO representatives to the United Nations. A long red cloth was draped around the pulpit in the form of an AIDS ribbon. Music reflected U.S. and South African traditions.
The service featured distribution of colorful, beaded AIDS lapel pins made by HIV-positive women at the Sinikithemba Center in Durban, South Africa. Sinikithemba is Zulu for "We Give Hope." The pins, whose design includes the AIDS ribbon and the South African flag, use their makers skills in traditional Zulu bead work. Their sale helps HIV-positive South African women support themselves and their families.
CWS, the ecumenical, international humanitarian ministry of the National Council of Churches and its 36 member denominations, is supporting the Sinikithemba Center by offering the pins for contributions of $5 or more.
The pins and accompanying gift card describing CWS support for this and other creative AIDS-response efforts are available from CWS by calling 1-800-297-1516 or at www.churchworldservice.org.
McCullough presented the first pin to Ms. Stephanie Urdang, AIDS Coordinator for UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, as a reminder that in Africa, the majority of people living with AIDS are women.
"Fifty-five percent of people living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women," McCullough said. "Worldwide, 47 percent of people living with AIDS are women. We must advocate for a gender-sensitive approach to the AIDS pandemic."
"By presenting this pin made by a South African woman to a woman who represents the United Nations work in the fight against AIDS, Church World Service symbolically lifts up the plight of women in this global epidemic and underscores CWSs commitment to work with the United Nations in addressing the AIDS pandemic," he said.
Urdang urged people to remember not only HIV-infected but also affected women, who are the primary caregivers of men, women and children with AIDS. "This pin unifies us with all who struggle with this disease every day all around the world," she said.
The New York City service was accompanied by parallel events in Australia, India, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong, Kenya, Ecuador, Russia, Canada and other locations.
Church World Service is in the process of launching a major HIV/AIDS response initiative that will combine programmatic components with a campaign of education and advocacy. This advocacy effort is linked with a global church initiative through the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, a new initiative of churches and church-related organizations around the world designed to strengthen the prophetic voice and impact of ecumenical witness on the crucial social, political and economic issues of the day.
NCC/CWS support many creative AIDS-response efforts. CWS is pioneering the use of the Moringa tree as a local, easily available, low-cost nutritional supplement in several African nations. The Moringas leaves, pods and flowers contain many vitamins and minerals needed to maintain health, particularly important for HIV-positive individuals. Clinical trials are currently underway in South Africa.
"Ngones Story: A Tale of Africas Orphans" is a one-hour program on AIDS-affected families in Senegal and Los Angeles produced by United Methodist Communications for the NCC. Several stations will air "Ngones Story" on Sunday, Dec. 2; some may choose to air it on Saturday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. Check listings for local air date and time.
AFRUS-Aids is a new initiative that is developing into a partnership of faith-based and other non-governmental organizations, including the NCC Justice for Women Working Group, with strong womens networks in Africa. Through the All Africa Conference of Churches and Groots International and with partners in the United States and Africa, this emerging partnership will identify small grassroots womens projects that tackle the HIV/AIDS challenge and advocate for funding from a variety of sources, including the U.N. Development Programme.
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