News 24, Church challenged on Aids, 29 July 2004

Cape Town - The Christian church must shoulder much of the blame for stigmatising those with HIV/Aids, says Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.

"Christianity has too often espoused a destructive theology that links sex and sin and guilt and punishment," he wrote in a paper to be presented at a conference in Cape Town on Friday.

"The church must take much of the blame for the issue of stigmatisation and its attendant problems of fear, denial and silence.... We must take the lead in overturning these distortions."

In the paper, extracts of which were released to media on Thursday, Ndungane, who is spiritual head of millions of Anglicans in southern Africa, called for an "exceptional response to an exceptional crisis".

He said HIV/Aids hits the poor hardest, and is also a disease that too often marginalises and excludes, "not least because of its associations with sex".

He said stigma has become a silent killer, "decimating families who find it impossible to communicate with each other about the illness in their midst".

"Another tragic and shameful area of the church's spiritual blindness is in relation to women, and this too is having devastating consequences in relation to HIV/Aids.

"Christianity has been complicit in sustaining the patriarchal dominance of men and the subjugation of women in... politics, economics, culture, society and the family as well as within the institutional church."

He also appealed for the clergy to take a lead in teaching that a simple low-cost funeral dishonours neither the dead person nor God.

He said lavish funerals can place unbearable financial strain on families - especially where more than one family member is affected.

Edited by Elmarie Jack









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