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Theological educators meet on HIV & AIDS
Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, OCT 19 (NPN):
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Published on 20 Oct. 2010 12:25 AM IST
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Taking note of the need for the church to reassess its approach towards HIV and AIDS, a four-day training and consultation programme of theological educators of North East India got underway Tuesday at Hotel Saramati Dimapur.
Spearheaded by Theological Educators of North East India on HIV and AIDS (TENEIHA) working group, the programme has been put together with a view to propagate and deliberate on the need for theological institutions to seriously consider the “pandemic” and introduce courses by way of educating and preparing church leaders to take up leadership relevantly in the context of HIV and AIDS.
Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the four-day programme, TENEIHA working group convenor Rev. Dr. Razouselie Lasetso asserted that the predominant association of HIV and AIDS with sex was one of the factors that has led the issue take on “a very scornful” response from the society and church. “Had HIV and AIDS not been related to sex, maybe the church would be at the forefront supporting and tackling the disease as with the leprosy mission of the churches throughout the world,” he said. Leprosy mission international is a non-denominational Christian organization working for about 130 years on ‘a World without Leprosy’ to eradicate the illness.
Pointing out that the giant church bodies in India such as the CNI, CSI and CNCNEI also contributes to the leprosy mission, Rev. Dr. Razou lamented that the same attitude and concern were not shown towards the HIV and AIDS pandemic, which, he maintained, was a serious issue confronting the church today. In the context and the magnitude of the pandemic, the church must also envision a ‘World without HIV and AIDS’, he added.
While confirming that some churches had initiated steps to address the challenge in regard of HIV and AIDS, Rev. Dr. Razou said many were yet to awaken to the issue. He stated that the reason behind the church’s slow response could be the fear of sex-talk and “unpreparedness” of the church to address an issue which it brands as sin, sinners and the consequences of sin. Refuting such conception, he asserted that the church’s call and ministry was not to become a fellowship of saints which passes judgment and condemn the world, but to be a fellowship with compassion and reach out to people in need. HIV and AIDS cannot just be reduced to personal sin anymore as the pandemic touches the issue of moral and ethical life, social, ecclesial, economic, familial, medical, legal and political aspects of life.
Emphasizing that Christians had a huge responsibility and mission to be performed in the context of HIV and AIDS, the TENEIHA working group convenor called upon the church to review on the efforts it had made so far, reflect upon its failures and reassess the need to rise to the need of the hour confronting the family, church and society. Also acknowledging the effective efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organizations in creating awareness and reducing transmission of the virus by way of promoting safe-sex (condom project) and clean needle exchange programs, Rev. Dr. Razou underlined the need for the church, “the strongest force” in creating awareness, to use the pulpit and other means, such as Bible study camps and seminars etc to relevantly address the issue. “This is where the role of theological educators comes into the picture of framing a theology of life that gives life and hope to all,” he stated, maintaining that only an accurate understanding of God’s liberating message in the Bible could bring about a proper understanding, even in the context of HIV and AIDS. Deliberating on the necessity to equip young theologians to tackle the issue, he said framing a theology of life in the context of HIV and AIDS was vital to give them proper orientation and training as caregivers and counselors. He also stated that although many curriculums on the issue had recently been drafted for theological institutions, many still refused to implement the subject to be taught to students. He said it was however encouraging that some institutions in the NE region had begun to incorporating the HIV and AIDS concern as a topic in their Christian ministry subjects as counseling papers. “HIV and AIDS issue must become an independent subject with interdisciplinary character for proper and deeper study into the issue to equip the next generation pastors and church leaders with the basic facts, and the stigma and discrimination associated with it,” he concluded.
It may be mentioned here that as per reports, an estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV and AIDS today, out of which, 36,372 were detected in Manipur (as of August 2010); 4,721 in Mizoram; 4,251 in Assam; and 10,394 in Nagaland (1994-September 2010). 515 AIDS related deaths had reportedly occurred the state so far, and there are around 500 HIV orphans in Nagaland alone, as per the TENEIHA working group findings.
The inaugural session was attended by theological educators from various theological institutions and colleges in NE including Assam, Meghalaya and from Nagaland- Mokokchung, Kohima, Mon and Dimapur districts. ETC Jorhat principal Rev. Dr. Akheto Sema delivered the welcome address while pastoral prayer for PLHAs was pronounced by Dr. Buno Iralu of Shalom Biblical Seminary.
The TENEIHA programme will be focusing on effects of HIV and AIDS, particularly on women and children, public health awareness, medical aspects, care & counseling, involvement of Christian NGOs, ethical and moral issues, networking/management/resource tapping, church’s involvement and legal aspects of HIV and AIDS.

 
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