Conference shines light on HIV and response of the Church
Over 100 clergy, HIV sector professionals and individual Christians attended Love Tenderly Act Justly: Stories of HIV and Christianity Today at St Martins in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, last Saturday, 25th October, co-organised by Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support (CAPS).
The group’s chairman, Vincent Manning, said: “The conference was a unique event and a great success. We learned about how HIV impacts on faith, and reflected upon what the Christian Churches’ response should be.
“The large number of people attending shows that HIV remains a significant issue in society and in the Church, and as people of faith we have an important contribution to mak.”
High points included a film made especially for the conference on HIV and Christianity, which featured HIV positive Christians telling their own stories, and interviews on the main theme with Canon Gideon Byamugisha and Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP.
Christians living with HIV shared their own experience throughout the day. Workshops were also offered by theologians and HIV professionals.
The conference ended with a service of worship incorporating many of the themes of the day, led by Bro Johannes Maertens.
CAPS was the lead partner in this ecumenical conference, with Changing Attitude, St Martins in the Fields and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).
“It was an extremely interesting conference and I hope that this is the first of many debates that will help shape the way the faith community supports those living with and affected by HIV” said Dr Rosemary Gillespie, CEO of THT.
Speakers also looked at pastoral responses to HIV and AIDS in Africa from Church workers and bishops, while Robert Calderisi, best-selling author of The Trouble With Africa, and Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development challenged us to question “…whether we are being as clear-sighted, as resourceful and as imaginative in our own responses to HIV at home.”
Professor Tina Beattie summed up many of the conference themes, reflecting on how people living with HIV are “already the Church”, pointing out that the suffering body of Christ was most profoundly identifiable among those on the margins of society.