Malawi Churches spearhead fight towards zero HIV and AIDS deaths

Led by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), the international faith community on Sunday held prayers as a lead to the week long international conference that seeks to drum up support towards zero deaths related from HIV and AIDS; zero new HIV infections; and zero stigma and discrimination.

The theme was ‘Thus Far We Have Come in the Journey Towards the Three Zeros: We are Thankful and in need”.

Guest of honour at the function, Speaker  of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda, said it was indeed time that the religious community held hands with the politicians or government to find solutions to meeting challenges faced by HIV and AIDS coupled by malaria.

“As you ably said a common man from Nkhotakota said HIV and AIDS had teamed up with malaria to kill off humanity, we too must team up, religious and political people, to formulate a strong front against this scourge,” he told the gathering at the Bingu wa Mutharika International Conference Centre in the capital city, Lilongwe where Participants included international faith leaders and law makers from around the world.

A Rastas sect representative in the audience

Bishop Dr. Joseph Bvumbwe, who is the board chairman of the MCC asked the pertinent question in his sermon, ‘Have we done enough on the three zeros?’ He used the scripture drawn from John 9 verses 1 – 11 about the man born blind healed by Jesus.

“Honestly the answer is a big NO,” he told the congregation, adding “We cannot claim complete success as this stage. Yes we have and are doing something. But we have not done enough. We cannot as Christian and Muslim or other faiths claim we have done all it takes. We are busy as human beings judging each other, saying those infected and or affected must have
gone to the wrong places. And yet we claim to be men of God?

“Let this conference be the voice of those of us who suffer. Those affected and infected. We are all infected and affected by the way. I am also pleased that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended to replace the current ARVs drugs with one with less side effects. This is good news as we struggle to heal the world,” he preached.

Like Jesus, he said, we must heal and be dirty in dealing with people that suffer. We should not stand aside and watch claiming ourselves to be cleaner than the next person.

“Jesus sees blindness as a the stumbling block to His service. How many of us see HIV and AIDS as a stumbling block to the good news of Jesus?” he questioned.

Other faith leaders at the meeting included the Reverend Canon Dr. Gideon Byamugisha from Uganda who is the Christian Aid goodwill ambassador on matters of HIV and AIDS. He first declared himself HIV positive years back when the church and faith community distanced itself from the pandemic.

He told the gathering that the 2nd Global Race to Save Life was taking place in Malawi because the country was one of the star performers in HIV and AIDS programming.

“We are all happy to be in Malawi to be part and parcel of the global voice to drum up support against HIV and AIDS. The SAVE (Safer practices; Access to treatment and nutrition; Voluntary counselling and testing; and Empowerment) model we are propelling today aims at removing SSDM (Stigma, Shame, Denial, Discrimination, Inaction and Mis-action) in the handling of
those brothers and sisters that are affected and infected,” he said.

Fr. Chimombo said human life is sacred as man was created in the image of God Himself.

“We have more in us as humans that what we can see outside. This is a privilage exnteded only to humans and not all creation and animals. When sick, we do not become any less human. You cannot forfeit dignity. We do everything to ensure that this dignity is respected. There is no room for stigma and discrimination because of HIV and AIDS,” he said.

During the Sunday prayers, different faith leaders from across the world, including those from Somalia, Indonesia, West America, Uganda, Rwanda, Geneva, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia all expressed happiness at been part and parcel of the international call to end SSDM and promote SAVE model.

The Somalia representative, Al Haji Dr. Alifed Muhamed Mohammed, who is the vice chairperson of the Global Working Group said: “This is a great event. A turning point in fighting HIV and AIDS globally. We have come together and must work together.”

The Rwandan delegate, ArchBishop of Rwanda, Rev. Lwanje, said this gathering would also give an opportunity for people to hear how conflict has helped to fuel and promote HIV infections as was the case of the 100 days Rwandan genocide.

“It saddens me that most of the HIV and AIDS cases amongst women and children are a result of rape during the genocide,” he shared.

Local religious leaders prayed for confession for Malawi, Africa and the world (Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi; renewed commitment towards the three zeros (Sheikh Nuru Mwalabu of the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi); thanksgiving for Malawi, Africa and the world (Bishop Mpire Kamanga of MANERELA), and for thanksgiving for
leadership and policies (Rev. Levi Nyondo of the Livingstonia Synod).

Others included Bishop Gilford Matonga, and the World Council of Churches’ Professor Isabel Phiri.

The international conference taking place at the ICC will end on Friday and will be officially opened by Vice President Khumbo Kachali on Wednesday tomorrow.

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