By Sarah Speicher, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Hundreds of representatives of different faiths around the world are expected to gather in Washington, D.C. to participate in AIDS 2012, the XIX International AIDS Conference on 22-27 July 2012.
Just days before, however, many will attend an interfaith conference at Howard University that will look at the current challenges and opportunities in developing an effective response to HIV.
The interfaith pre-conference, “Taking Action for Health, Dignity, and Justice” will be held on 20-21 July. Participants will focus on the response to HIV from faith communities, and will explore both advocacy and on the ground responses during three plenary sessions and numerous workshops.
A plenary session on “Dignity” will focus on inclusive religious and community responses which treat all people with respect and examine some of the social and legal barriers that prevent inclusion in HIV programs.
A plenary on “Health” will examine the challenges in scaling-up anti-retroviral treatment and highlight opportunities for faith-based organizations to help increase access to treatment, both through advocacy and practical hands-on involvement.
The final plenary on “Justice” will explore the attitudes, policies, social inequalities and practices that continue to make people on the margins of society most vulnerable to HIV – and challenge participants to address these issues. In addition, over 24 workshops will allow participants to delve into each of these issues more deeply.
Religious leaders from around the world will participate. Confirmed plenary moderators and speakers include:
- Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, USA
- Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS
- Rev. Dr. Nyambura Njoroge, World Council of Churches, Kenya
- Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre, USA
- Dr. Rosalee Velloso Ewell, World Evangelical Alliance, Brazil
- Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service, USA
- Canon Gideon Byamugisha, Christian Aid Goodwill Ambassador, Uganda
- Faghmeda Miller, Positive Muslims, South Africa
- Nick Stuart, Odyssey Networks, UK
- Pablo Torres Aguilera, dance4life, Mexico
- Bishop Yvette Flunder, United Church of Christ City of Refuge, USA
- Ms. Moono Nyambe, Global Network of People Living with HIV, Zambia
- Swami Advaidananda, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+), Réunion Island
- Dr. Ronald Lalthanmawia, Christian Medical Association of India
- Rev. MacDonald Sembereka, INERELA+, Malawi
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the lead international sponsor of the interfaith pre-conference, working in partnership with The Balm in Gilead as the lead national sponsor. Additional co-sponsors include INERELA+, Religions for Peace, Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, Catholic Medical Mission Board and the American Jewish World Service.
An interfaith prayer service will also be held at the National Cathedral in cooperation with the NAMES Project Foundation - AIDS Memorial Quilt, which will be displaying portions of the AIDS quilt during the International AIDS Conference at 7:00 pm Saturday, 21 July.
Free tickets for the event will be made available – details to be provided in late June at www.iacfaith.net.