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|U.S.' Tim Janis, CWS Bring 'Symphony of Hope'
To End HIV/AIDS Stigma in South Africa
May 24, 2002 - In South Africa the societal stigma of having HIV/AIDS is cited as a leading contributor to the epidemic's alarming spread in that country. But two musical performances in Durban and Johannesburg May 10 and 12, respectively, by U.S.-based, award-winning classical composer Tim Janis raised awareness and thousands of dollars in those cities to promote the de-stigmatization of AIDS.
Co-sponsored by U.S.-based international humanitarian relief and development organization Church World Service and the South African Council of Churches, Janis' "Symphony of Hope" in Durban raised funds for the Sinikithemba HIV/AIDS Christian Care Centre there and featured the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, popular South African performers, and a choir whose members are all HIV+.
In Johannesburg, in Soweto's Regina Mundi Church, Janis and his ensemble performed with the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society, the Soweto community choir that sang at Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President. Drawing about 2,000 area residents, dignitaries and businesspeople, the Soweto event showcased the SACC's Call to Condemn the Stigmatization of HIV/AIDS Infected and Affected.
Those performances and a related Tim Janis recording tour are part of Church World Service's multi-year initiative to address problems of health, hunger and malnutrition, poverty, and self-sufficiency across Africa.
Attendees at Janis' Durban concert included a Zulu prince next in line to the Crown of the Zulu people, American Consul Craig Kuehl and his wife Jane Lucas of the World Health Organization, and other area dignitaries. Kuehl thanked Church World Service for its work and partnerships in South Africa, while Lucas echoed her own excitement and "great respect for the organization's work and these programs."
To the Soweto event's attendees, South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma conveyed the government's endorsement of the initiative to end the ostracizing of people with AIDS.
CWS Director Praises Janis', Attendees' Commitment to "Eliminate AIDS"
Addressing the Soweto audience on behalf of Church World Service Executive Director Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS Regional Director William Wildey conveyed, "This is what the churches need to be about. We need to ensure that all people with HIV/AIDS are treated with dignity, respect and love. We need to be the voice against the stigmatization of people with AIDS." McCullough's message also said that CWS "and the Christians it represents are standing side by side with their brothers and sisters in South Africa.
"We are deeply grateful that Tim Janis is sharing his spirit and music on our behalf," McCullough noted. "Tim is exemplary of people around the world who feel a sense of passion for justice and compassion for their neighbor. His commitment to the redress of HIV/AIDS inspires all of us to do more."
McCullough and Church World Service thanked the Imilonji KaNtu Choir and the others attending for speaking out publicly against stigmatization of people living with AIDS. "We have gathered here today to celebrate the meaning of our collective efforts to eliminate this terrible disease from the face of the earth," he added.
SACC's Tsele to Church Leaders: Confess Self Righteousness, Embrace Brothers and Sisters
Dr. Molefe Tsele, General Secretary of the SACC, said "Many people living with AIDS report that the greatest pain is not having the disease itself, but the stigma associated with the disease." He called on the church "to wage an onslaught against this stigma. The church needs to confess its self-righteousness and failure to embrace their brothers and sisters living with AIDS. AIDS is inside the church."
Tsele also said "This event would never have happened without Church World Service and the involvement of Tim Janis," proclaiming the events "extremely important in the life of the church in South Africa."
The Chairman of Eskom Reuel Khoza, major funder of the Johannesburg event, said "I am happy to join forces with CWS and the SACC in an emphatic spirit against AIDS and its stigma. I applaud Tim Janis and Imilonji KaNtu for lending their talent to the struggle." He also "threw down the gauntlet" to other businesses to get involved in the struggle, and they committed themselves to donating R120 million (American $11,970,075) to health education in South Africa.
Janis Performances Part of Recording Tour, Fundraising CD For CWS Africa AIDS Projects
Janis' Symphony of Hope African performances were part of a recording tour to produce an album for worldwide sales, which will also benefit AIDS programs in Africa. A special fundraising edition of the album will feature African performers including the Sinikithemba Choir, a message from Bishop Desmond Tutu, and a description of vital HIV/AIDS projects in South Africa. Available only through Church World Service, proceeds from the sale of the special HIV/AIDS CD edition will go to CWS' Executive Director's Fund for HIV/AIDS in Africa and will be used exclusively for funding the organization's HIV/AIDS projects there.
Janis: South African Hope and Courage Inspiring
Janis, who plays with the American Philharmonic Orchestra, and whose "Music of Hope" CD topped Billboard's "Top Classical Albums" last year, heard of Church World Service's programs in Africa and of Sinikithema's support for over 18,000 HIV+ people each year and offered to contribute his time and talents.
Janis found the spirit of the South African people and meeting the AIDS pandemic head-on to be a moving experience. "I came expecting to be depressed by meeting people with HIV/AIDS," Janis adds. "However, after working with the Sinikithemba choir, I'm inspired by their hope and courage." Tim Janis Ensemble vocalist Ellie Kang said, "It was spiritually moving. It was a privilege to be there and to see the church leaders, the people living with AIDS, the choir, musicians, and all the others holding candles and committing themselves to the war against the stigma. It was really profound that the churches came out in support of people living with AIDS."
During the Durban concert rehearsals, Church World Service Community Education Specialist Tom Hampson reports one woman in the Sinikethemba Choir began to give birth onstage. "An ambulance finally arrived," he says, "but the child was stillborn. Half an hour later, the choir was in the recording studio with us, rehearsing for our album.
While in Durban and Johannesburg, Church World Service representatives also visited Egelbert, a project for abandoned AIDS infants, and accompanied Hillsdale hospice project caregivers to visit people in advanced stages of AIDS. "It was a very difficult day for all of us," reports Hampson.
When the CWS group visited the Rev. Beyers Naude, the leading Afrikaner critic of apartheid and former SACC General Secretary, Dr. Naude said, "This is a great privilege. I never expected this. Now approaching 90, with fragile health, and unable to attend the Soweto event, he said "I wish I could be with you later today in Soweto. It will be a life changing experience . . . You will never forget it as long as you live. We've been there many times before, in the times of struggle, it is an incredible experience.
"I wish you joy during your time in Soweto and your role in South Africa. Thank you to CWS, thank you for coming to visit us, thank you for sharing with us. This AIDS issue is a very serious issue facing all of us," Naude reminded his visitors. "I'm very grateful for the attention you can draw to it. I wish you God's blessing on your time in South Africa. "
Founded in 1946, Church World Service works in partnership with local organizations in the U.S. and more than 80 countries worldwide, and on behalf of the 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations that are member denominations of the National Council of Churches in the USA. Church World Service' supports sustainable, self-help development, meets emergency needs, aids refugees, and helps address the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.
For more information about Church World Service's African HIV/AIDS projects, and ways to support, contact: 1- (800) 297-1516, or visit their website at www.churchworldservice.org
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