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Dear brothers and sisters in the faith,

Dear friends, fellow believers and all people of good will,


“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
(1 Cor. 1:3).

We, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of Africa and Madagascar greet
you in faith and with warm affection. Gathered in the 13th
Plenary Assembly of our Bishops Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM),
we have taken up the AIDS pandemic and its horrible consequences. In
doing so we have been very close to you, our dear brothers and sisters
who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and also to you who have been
moved to join in the fight against the scourge of AIDS.

I. We are in solidarity.



“For just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the
members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ”
1 Cor. 12:12).


This eloquent image expresses well the solidarity that we feel
towards all who suffer, but especially towards you our Christian
brothers and sisters, who are one single body, with millions who
make up the communities of Africa and Madagascar. It is on you that
we call to join together in confronting the pandemic whose gravity
no one can ignore.

May this solidarity be matched by a keen awareness of the
seriousness of the threat facing us.
Millions of lives have
already been lost prematurely, whole families dismembered and untold
numbers of children orphaned and/or infected by HIV. And it is they
above all who need protection, nurture, housing, education and adult

II. Let’s be true to ourselves.

As heads of our Christian communities, we commit ourselves to
making available our Church’s resources
be they our educational
and healthcare institutions or social services. We will work closely
with all funders who are disposed to support and work with Christian
and faith-based organisations. We are open to partnerships with them
and others who are happy to put their resources to work in the
struggle, and do so knowing well that we work according to our
Gospel convictions
. For “man does not live by bread alone, but
by every word that issues from the mouth of God” (Mt 4: 4).

The morality we teach in God’s name seeks to respect and affirm
human life which gets its value and dignity from the fact that it is
the inviolable gift from our Father who creates every human being
and calls everyone to the fullness of life. Therefore abstinence and
fidelity are not only the best way to avoid becoming infected by HIV
or infecting others, but even more are they the best way of ensuring
progress towards lifelong happiness and true fulfilment.


“Never give in then, brothers and sisters, never admit defeat;
keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the
Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain”
(1 Cor 15: 58).

III. Let’s change behaviour.


Besides teaching the morality of the Church and sharing her moral
convictions with civil society, and besides informing and alerting
people to the dangers of HIV-infection, we want to educate
appropriately and promote those changes in attitude and behaviour

which value abstinence and self-control before marriage and fidelity
within marriage. We want to become involved in affective and sexual
education for life, to help young people and couples discover the
wonder of their sexuality and their reproductive capacities. Out of
such wonder and respect flow a responsible sexuality and method of
managing fertility in mutual respect between the man and the woman.


This type of education can only be undertaken effectively with
the active collaboration of lay men and women who not only speak
about principles of morality
but also, as youth and as
couples, give living testimony that fidelity to these moral
principles yields a humanising and fulfilling affective and sexual
life. Such education also contributes to promoting healthy and
stable families, and these are the best prevention against AIDS.

Organizations which specialise in such education for young people
and for couples exist throughout Africa and are having a small but
gratifying degree of success. We give them the support and
encouragement they deserve.

IV. Let’s be responsible.

The solidarity that we spoke of earlier binds us to joint
responsibility in tackling the global and complex challenges facing
us: interminable and recurrent wars, conflicts and violence in which
rape is often used as a weapon, not just psychologically violent but
physically destructive through HIV/AIDS!

We have also come to realise that poverty goes hand in hand
with HIV and AIDS
. It concerns us that our already fragile
economies should be further weakened with much of the trained labour
force lost to HIV and AIDS. Poverty facilitates the transmission of
HIV, makes adequate treatment unaffordable, accelerates death from
HIV-related illness and multiplies the social impact of the epidemic.

In all these senses, “Let all the parts [of the one body] feel
the same concern for one another”
(1 Cor 12:25). This
among us and this fidelity to our faith, this
resolve to change behaviour and assume our entire
for the future of our continent, now take
concrete form in the following Plan of Action. We pass it on
so that you can also make it yours.




We, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of SECAM, propose to the
members of the clergy, brothers and sisters in religious life, to the
faithful and all people of good will, the following plan of action:


I. In solidarity with you, we commit ourselves to:



  1. Utilise and increase the human, material, and financial
    resources dedicated to address the situation of HIV and AIDS in our
    communities, and to identify focal points in parishes, dioceses, and
    national Episcopal conferences in order to assist with gathering
    information and development of programme strategies. In this same
    effort, we are committed to coordinating our efforts at the
    continental level in the struggle against the pandemic.
  2. Make sure that the health services of the Church, the social
    services and the educational institutions respond appropriately to
    the needs of those who are ill with AIDS.
  3. Focus on the particular vulnerability of girls and the heavy
    burden on women in the context of the HIV pandemic in Africa.
  4. Advocate vigorously for access to treatment for those who are
    prevented from obtaining it through poverty and structural
  5. Involve those who are knowledgeable about traditional medicines
    and other natural remedies in research into means of struggling
    against AIDS.


II. Faithful to our Gospel convictions, with you we commit
ourselves to:



  1. Collaborate with other Christian confessions and with people of
    other faiths working in their respective communities to support
    those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
  2. Promote closer partnerships with civil society, the business
    sector, governments, the United Nations, international and
    intergovernmental agencies, and particularly with organisations of
    people living with HIV and AIDS, in order to increase the capacity
    for care and support, without diluting our evangelical convictions.


III. Facing the serious threat of AIDS, with you we are
committed to:



    1. Promote changes of mentality, attitude and behaviour necessary
      for confronting the challenge of the pandemic.
    2. Work tirelessly to eradicate stigma and discrimination and to
      challenge any social, religious, cultural and political norms and
      practices which perpetuate such stigma and discrimination.
    3. Play a major role in eradicating the damaging myths of stigma
      and discrimination by facilitating Voluntary Counselling and Testing
      (VCT) so that those who are infected might benefit from the care and
      support they need. This will also help better to control
      mother-to-child transmission.
    4. Advocate with government at all levels and with
      inter-governmental organizations to establish policy priorities that
      adequately support those affected by HIV and AIDS, that provide
      access to care and treatment and a life of dignity for people living
      with HIV and AIDS, and that implement the commitments made at
      various inter-governmental meetings.



IV. In shared responsibility with you, we commit ourselves to:


    1. Develop educational programmes which integrate the theme of HIV/AIDS
      in theology and religious formation. These programmes will also
      include moral principles and practical skills for promoting healthy
      relationships and a well-integrated sexuality.
    2. Promote and deepen theological reflection on the virtues of
      compassion, love, healing, reconciliation, and hope, all of which
      are capable of confronting the judgement, shame, and fear that so
      often are associated with HIV and AIDS.
    3. Organize workshops at the regional, national, diocesan and
      parish levels in order to increase accurate knowledge and
      sensitivity around all HIV and AIDS-related issues relevant to our
    4. Encourage people living with HIV/AIDS or affected by it to
      become actively involved, in our local communities, as resource
      persons in the struggle against the pandemic.



V. Finally, as Pastors of the Church Family of God in Africa in a
time of AIDS
, we want to:


  1. Train clergy, religious, and committed laity to accompany people
    living with and affected by HIV and AIDS with prayer and spiritual
  2. Provide doctrinal, spiritual and social formation, and the best
    possible professional training, for those willing to become involved
    in caring for and accompanying those who are living with and
    affected by HIV/AIDS.
  3. Welcome people living with HIV and AIDS in a warm, non-judgemental
    and compassionate manner in our churches and ensure them a “place at
    the table of the Lord.”
  4. Provide the sacraments and sacramentals, as appropriate and
    requested, to Catholics living with the virus.
  5. Put into action the challenge addressed by our Holy Father Pope
    John Paul II to the Church in our continent through his Apostolic
    Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa:


“The battle against AIDS ought to be everyone’s battle. Echoing the
voice of the Synod Fathers, I too ask pastoral workers to bring to their
brothers and sisters affected by AIDS all possible material, moral and
spiritual comfort. I urgently ask the world’s scientists and political
leaders, moved by the love and respect due to every human person, to use
every means available in order to put an end to this scourge.”


We intend to create an HIV/AIDS service on the Continental level in
order to assist us in implementing our Plan of Action.

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