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LAKE FOREST, Calif., Nov. 29 – Dr. Rick and Kay Warren today were joined by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in person and five other presidential candidates by video for a “Conversation with Leaders” as part of their third annual Saddleback Global Summit on AIDS & The Church. This special session emphasized the potential partnership between government and the faith community, and the vital role of the Church in responding to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“We’ve come a long way,” Sen. Clinton said. “Not only can we talk about AIDS in church, but churches can lead the way. If we fail to engage churches in battling AIDS, we will fail to conquer AIDS.”
Addressing the group of more than 1,700 Summit attendees, Sen. Clinton added that she wants to build on the leadership that President and Mrs. Bush have shown. She emphasized that HIV/AIDS is a problem of common humanity and that the fight against the disease is an American commitment that can be done with bipartisan solutions to non-partisan problems.
Five other presidential candidates – both Republican and Democrat – provided video messages, presented by alternating parties. As with Sen. Clinton, their remarks answered the question, “If elected, what would you do about the HIV/AIDS pandemic?” The common thread among all of their messages was that everyone has an obligation to stand together in the face of this problem — regardless of faith, age, nationality, gender, or political affiliation.
“Lifting nations out of poverty is essential to fighting the AIDS pandemic, and the first step is raising the awareness of those who can help in this fight,” said Senator John McCain (R-Ariz). “This Summit represents an important part of this step. We look forward to the day when this disease will become only a memory.”
Democratic Sen. John Edwards thanked the participants for their efforts and said that “we all have a moral imperative to do much more and to do it much better, but AIDS is a fight we can win.”
Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee opined that the most important contributions of Dr. Warren, who was his seminary classmate nearly 30 years ago, are his enormous influence on public policy and human compassion around the world. He stressed the need for a public and private partnership to bring about health and help to those affected by HIV/AIDS.
“My faith teaches me that the sin isn’t being sick; the sin is doing nothing to help the sick,” said Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill). “Because we can no longer pretend to be ignorant about the poverty and disease that inflicts so many, it’s our moral obligation as Americans and as people of faith to do all we can to help them.”
Republican Gov. Mitt Romney said, “We must show compassion for those suffering abroad and demonstrate the commitment of America and our allies to the universal values that are the key to defeating violence, poverty and extremism. This is how to spend the capital of leadership: on behalf of those who have no capital of their own.”
The Summit’s focus on leadership dovetails into the 2007 World AIDS Day theme, “The Power of Partnerships.” Recognizing that no one faction can solve the problems of this pandemic alone, the Warrens invited leaders from “public, private and parish” sectors, including top presidential candidates, to engage in and continue dialogue on how resources and efforts can be aligned to sustain momentum and focus on the issues of prevention and treatment of the HIV/AIDS virus.
Because attitudes and beliefs penetrate societies from the leadership down, Dr. Warren believes that it will take true leadership, not just among government officials, but also business and clergy, to bring about effective change and stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The HIV/AIDS initiative of Saddleback Church is a key part of the P.E.A.C.E. plan, an overarching humanitarian strategy launched three years ago combining the resources of government, business and the faith community to solve what Dr. Warren calls the five biggest problems in the world or the five “global giants.”. The goal of this worldwide effort is to mobilize 1 billion church members to Promote Reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.
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