Caritas networking around the world
Joining hand to stop AIDS
Middle East and North Africa
On 6-10 February 2007, more than 40 participants gathered, in Alexandria, Egypt, in order to study and enhance "The Role of Catholic and other Faith-Based Organizations in Response to the Pandemic of HIV-AIDS in the MONA (Middle East and North Africa) Region".
Organised by the Regional Caritas Secretariat for Middle East / North Africa, with the support of Caritas-Egypt, the workshop was attended by practitioners in Caritas and other Catholic organisations from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Djibouti, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, along with other non-governmental organisation representatives.
Also participating were religious leaders from the Coptic Orthodox and Muslim communities, and officials of UNAIDS, of other UN agencies, and of the Egyptian Ministry of Health, the Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt and Holy See Delegate to the Arab League.
Acknowledging the underestimated importance of the issue in the region, and aware of the great potential of faith-based organisations, participants committed themselves to working together to share experiences and best practices, and to design new perspectives of action.
On April 24-26, 2007 the first Caritas Europa HIV conference, titled "Stigma or Solidarity? New challenges for the Church responses to HIV & AIDS in Europe", was held in Kiev, Ukraine.
One of the main objectives of the conference was to raise awareness among Church leaders and leaders of church organisations regarding the need for a response to HIV & AIDS: poverty is often a root cause of vulnerability to HIV infection, HIV & AIDS often leads to social exclusion, and social exclusion often leads to poverty (the ‘vicious circle’).
Caritas and other Catholic organisations in Africa assisted SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) to conduct a special HIV seminar for bishops in conjunction with the SECAM General Assembly held in Dakar in October 2003; the bishops, in turn, prepared a Work Plan on HIV and AIDS for the Catholic Church in Africa.
During their Assembly in June 2005, the bishops of the AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa) dedicated additional study and reflection time to the pandemic and invited testimony from those engaged in practical action in response to HIV on behalf of Caritas and other Catholic organisations. They also issued a statement entitled, “Called to be a Good Samaritan: Responding to the Challenge of HIV/AIDS in the AMECEA Region".
In August 2004, Caritas and other Catholic organisation representatives, especially those associated with Health Pastoral Care, assisted the CELAM (Council of Episcopal Conferences of Latin America) Office for Justice and Solidarity to proposed a Pastoral Strategy in Response to the HIV Epidemic in this region.
It said, “Our priority focus is prevention, both in the health field and in terms of education. As a fundamental methodological criterion, we do not address HIV/AIDS in an isolated manner but rather as something integrated with other risk situations such as addictions, family violence, the mistreatment and abuse of children and adolescents.”
In response to this Pastoral Strategy, the CAMEXPA (Central America-Mexico-Panama) Zone of Caritas convened representatives in June 2006, in Honduras, to develop an Action Plan for its respective zone.
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