To Fight AIDS, Interfaith Collaboration Needed

August 22, 2006

Source: Zenit News Agency

On August 22, 2006 the Zenit News Agency reported, "A 'road map' for interfaith collaboration is necessary to address the AIDS pandemic, says an adviser to Caritas Internationalis. People of faith can no longer allow themselves the luxury of segmented and separated responses to AIDS, said Father Robert Vitillo during an interreligious conference on the topic, held Aug. 12. The conference was a prelude to the 16th International Conference on AIDS, held in Toronto from Aug. 13-18. As Caritas' special adviser for HIV/AIDS, Father Vitillo referred to Pope John XXIII's appeal to his bishops to read the signs of the times. 'That might be an indispensable exercise for us as people of faith at this moment in the evolution of the HIV pandemic,' the priest said, as reported in a note of the worldwide Catholic aid confederation. Father Vitillo suggested that it is time 'to create a "road map for cooperative actions" among faith communities.' Mark Hanson, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told the group of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Baha'i and Hindus: 'HIV and AIDS is an issue where we find our unity within our diversity.' However, the evangelical Lutheran leader admitted that there are obstacles to interfaith collaboration. 'We come as people of faith whose identity has been shaped by deeply held convictions and practices,' he noted. 'That makes collaboration very difficult because we tend to distrust the faith and religious practices of the other.' The audience responded with applause when the Protestant prelate criticized world leaders for fostering an environment of distrust for the sake of their ideologies. 'We live in a time when the reality of terrorism is now becoming the defining reality for decisions made and that fosters a culture of fear amongst all of us,' he warned, urging 'listening, listening, listening' as an antidote to distrust. Buddhist Phramaha Boonchuay, chairman of the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, said that 'As faith-based organizations, we have the same goal. We have the same idea of loving others.'"