Ecumenical body discusses Church’s role in addressing HIV/ AIDS

By Matters India Reporter

Chiang Mai: A four-day Asia regional consultation has explored creating space for the churches in Asia to discuss and share the concerns related to HIV and AIDS, human sexuality and reproductive health.

Organized by the Christian Conference of Asia as part of its special program on Acting Together in Combating HIV and AIDS in Asia, the August 15-18 consultation held at Chiang Mai, Thailand, brought together representatives of churches and ecumenical organizations from eight countries in Asia.

The participants of the consultation on ‘HIV/AIDS, Human Sexuality and Reproductive Health’ were invited from among the churches and related organizations that had experience in addressing the concerns related to HIV/AIDS, human sexuality and reproductive health.

Reverend Mathews George Chunakara, CCA general secretary, in his remarks at the opening session noted that the pandemic of HIV and AIDS has now been recognized as an important issue to be addressed by the churches in Asia. A comprehensive framework for achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS is to be worked out, he added.

Alfred Candid Jaropillo of the United Church of Christ, Philippines, conducted the worship and reflected on the diversity of God’s creation, and how we were beautifully made in God’s image and need to embrace each and every one.

The contextual bible study facilitated by S N Among Jamir of Nagaland Baptist Convention in India highlighted the significance of reading and re-reading the Bible in the current context of inclusivity, welcoming the strangers, and how to be hospitable and not hostile to the strangers and the marginalized in society.

The presentation on ‘Theological Perspective of Human Sexuality’ by Stephen Suleeman of Jakarta Theological Seminary in Indonesia reflected on the HIV/ AIDS situation in Indonesia and the need to understand human sexuality and reproductive health in vulnerable situations.

Ronald Lalthanmawia, coordinator of HIV and AIDS Programme of CCA, emphasized that the gamut of the problems related to human sexuality and gender in the medical field needed to be understood in a context that everyone was created differently and it was imperative to have a common understanding amidst all diversities.

Pastor Carlene Nomorosa of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines explained the impact of the negligence in addressing sex and sexuality in society in a proper way which was leading to young people being dependent on information from the wrong sources and developing a misconception about human sexuality.

Sawako Fujiwara from Tohoku Gakuin University in Japan outlined the ecumenical responses on human sexuality over the years and the challenges and good practices of the issue in the context of Japan.

“The ecumenical journey on addressing the topic of human sexuality had been responded to indifferently thus far and so there was a necessity to open-up spaces of dialogue to change the attitudes and perceptions”, added young woman theologian and academic, Sawako.

Father Abin Abraham of India’s Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church highlighted the success of his church’s project in Mumbai for the empowerment and sensitization of transgender people. More than 200 Transgender and Intersex people participated in it.

He stressed empowering the churches and the marginalized community while addressing the socio-economic needs of the transgender in society.

Participants pointed out the need to consolidate the efforts of the Asian churches and called for creating a common platform to facilitate sharing of resources and mutual exchange of learning.

They said a continuous theological reflection in the Asian context and continue was necessary to build awareness and sensitize churches and its leadership.

The consultation identified the importance of recognizing diversities in human sexuality as being part of our lives, reflecting biblically and theologically on the issue, responding positively in creating safe spaces among our communities and reaching out to the affected communities to give them a sense of belonging.

The consultation ended by re-affirming that “we are all created in the image of God with all our inequities and differences. Following the footsteps of Jesus, we are called to prophesy among our brothers and sisters who experience injustices, violence and alienation due to their sexual differences that they should also have the fullness of life.”

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