Kumbungu (N/R), Aug. 9, GNA - Mr Alexis Dery Danikuu, Coordinator of the Assemblies of God Relief and Development Services (AGREDS), a religious non-governmental organisation has noted that interpretation of the scriptures about sin by the clergy has contributed to the unwillingness of persons living with the disease to own up.
He said, "The way we think about HIV/AIDS as individuals and groups determines the way we act towards those living with the disease." Mr Danikuu was speaking at a four-day training workshop on "HIV/AIDS, Peace Building and Conflict Transformation" for staff and student pastors of the Assemblies of God Bible College at Kumbungu in the Tolon/Kumbungu District.
He said Jesus warned in the scriptures against those who think that others were worst sinners because some misfortune or disease had come upon them.
The AGREDS Coordinator pointed out that Jesus did not see disease as judgment but as an opportunity to show God's glory and mercy, saying, "Stigmatisation and discrimination against HIV/AIDS persons had hampered preventive efforts and forced the pandemic underground and out of sight."
The workshop formed part of the church's HIV/AIDS strategic focus aimed at building the capacity of the pastors to support the fight against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as peace building and conflict transformation and prevention.
The participants treated topics on peace building, better understanding of the dynamics of conflicts, HIV/AIDS and how they fitted into the mission of the church.
Mr Danikuu urged the churches to show compassion, care, love and dignity to people living with HIV/AIDS saying: "The church community must act as a bridge and not a barrier in the battle against HIV/AIDS and factors that make people vulnerable."
Mr Danikuu noted that although the churches had a unique role and mandate for ministry on issues of HIV/AIDS, the opposite was the case on the ground.
He therefore, called on the churches to rise up to the challenges posed by the pandemic, which he said was deepening poverty, reversing human development, worsening gender inequalities and eroding the government and stakeholders' ability to provide and maintain essential services.
He announced that, the Assemblies of God Church had made HIV/AIDS a priority in all its development programmes and had trained 170 pastors and seven regional superintendents, as well as principals of the Bible Schools and departmental directors on HIV/AIDS sensitisation.
The Church had also trained 420 pastors throughout the country on how to provide accurate, balance and factual information on HIV/AIDS to their congregations, while 150 traditional birth attendance and 202 village health committee members of AGREDS health centres had been trained in basic HIV/AIDS information, prevention, care and support services.
Mr Danikuu said, 44 health workers comprising doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff of the Church's health institutions had also been trained in HIV/AIDS infection control and psychosocial support services.
Mr Martin Alfa, Senior Programme Officer of AGREDS said whether it was in fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, hunger or preventing conflicts, the churches could not claim to be immune to any consequences of these and the negative effects that they might unleash on the communities and the country as a whole.
He said he was disappointed when a minister of God was recently reported to have said that any member of the church who died of HIV/AIDS should not be given a Christian burial.
He said, "This minister should have known that burials do not mean anything to the Christian but the eternal inheritance is what matters". Mr Alfa pointed out that when both Lazarus and the rich man in the Bible died, the latter had a grand funeral and burial but Lazarus had none, saying: "But the truth is that up till now no one knows the name of that rich man but Lazarus' name has remained till now."
He noted: "If the church does not want to be part of the burial of members who die out of HIV/AIDS then, it means that we should stop witnessing to sinners because how else can we know that, this sinner has HIV and that has not."