Interfaith Actions Stressed For AIDS Advocacy in Asia

The participants of the CCA consultation on AIDS

Chiang Mai (Thailand): The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) recently organized a regional consultation to intensify interfaith HIV and AIDS advocacy collaborations in Asia. Held at the CCA headquarters from January 27–31, twenty-five participants representing different faith-based organizations and religions from Asia as well as networks of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) attended the consultation. In his opening address, CCA general secretary Reverend Mathews George Chunakara stated that the interfaith consultation was part of the Action Together in Combatting HIV and AIDS in Asia programme. It is a significant move to revitalize the wider coalition of interfaith advocacy networks, especially for stimulating the activities of the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, he explained.
Venerable Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai, a prominent Buddhist monk who is committed to promoting interfaith collaborative actions to combat HIV and AIDS, said, “Most people prefer not to engage in conversations around HIV and AIDS because of the discomfort and stigma surrounding it. An interfaith consultation such as this sets a positive precedent and invites other Asian faith communities and networks to work in this space”. Elucidating the Buddhist perspective, Venerable Boonchuay spoke of mahakaruna, or ‘great compassion’. “Whoever desires to serve the Buddha should first desire to serve sick persons,” he explained. He provided numerous examples of the work of Buddhist monks in responding to HIV and AIDS in Thailand. He reported that their work had led to a reduction in infection rates, stigma and discrimination.
An Islamic perspective was shared by SitiSuginai, a young woman representing the Komisi Penanggulangan AIDS in Indonesia.“[…]Muslim communities are called upon theologically to serve the underserved”.
Ronald Lalthanmawia, coordinator of ATCHAA, spoke on the Christian perspective. He called for developing an inclusive theology that was grounded in compassion, care, and support.
Khawn Taung, the General Secretary of the Myanmar Interfaith Network on AIDS (MINA) shared the journey of MINA and spoke of how different faith communities had put aside their differences and collaboratively worked on issues.
Wangda Dorji, from the Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (BNP+), which is the only civil society organisation operating to address HIV and AIDS in Bhutan, delivered a moving presentation. He shared his journey as a person living with the virus and the struggles he faced when publicly disclosing the same. He also spelt out the possibilities of reaching out to faith leaders in Bhutan who could use their respective organisations and networks to influence society and reduce stigma and discrimination.
Developing an action plan, the participants resolved to strengthen and revive national interfaith networks on AIDS, and also initiate networks in countries where they do not currently exist.
(Extracted from mattersindia.com)

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