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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GLOBAL SUMMIT ON AIDS & THE CHURCH CALLS
LAKE FOREST, Calif., Dec 1 – The third annual Saddleback Global Summit on AIDS & The Church concluded yesterday with a challenge from Dr. Rick and Kay Warren to the more than 1,700 attendees for the Church to lead with love in the global response to HIV/AIDS.
“People with HIV/AIDS need to have the invisible God made visible to them – that is our purpose,” Mrs. Warren said. “There are many things we don’t know about this epidemic, but what we do know is that individuals living with this disease need at least six things: acceptance, hope, support, to know people care, a family and our presence.”
Dr. Rick Warren emphasized that his church did not do this conference for a cause, but rather for a person, Jesus Christ. “If you want to know how much Jesus loves people with AIDS, just look at the Cross – He loved people so much it hurt.
“You can’t change the world by yourself, but you can change the world for somebody,” he added. “It all comes down to whether you accept the world’s or Jesus’ response to AIDS. The world’s response is A.I.D.S.: Avoidance, Intolerance, Distance and Superstition. But Jesus’ mandate to respond to people with AIDS is for us to replace each of those with H.O.P.E.: Help, Openness, Presence and Education.”
The two and-a-half-day event featured more than 90 international speakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; Her Excellency, Mrs. Jeanette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda; Her Excellency, Mrs. Maureen Mwanawasa, First Lady of Zambia; Ambassador Mark Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Dr. Peter Piot, UNAID Executive Director; Dr. Robert Redfield, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland at Baltimore; and Pastor John Ortberg from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Florida., among others representing significant government, business, medicine and faith organizations.
Jay Hein, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, brought greetings to Pastor Rick and Kay Warren and Summit attendees from President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Hein said that the President and First Lady share the admonition that it does take leaders moving into action, but that action isn’t effective if it doesn’t start with a broken heart. He stressed the need for the real appreciation of the human cost that this horrible disease brings.
The Warrens have publicly acknowledged that the Church has been “late to the table” regarding its response to AIDS, but also notes that only the Christian Church has the infrastructure to effectively reach the most affected people around the world – namely those living in poverty-stricken, Third World countries.
The Summit remains the only HIV/AIDS conference worldwide to be built entirely on a practical “local church-based” strategy designed to mobilize millions of congregations around the world for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The event focused not just on how the Church can make a difference, but also addressed why the Church should even care. When asked why the Church, and he and Mrs. Warren in particular, have joined in the battle against HIV/AIDS, Rick Warren stated it in very simple terms, “Two words: Jesus would.”
Dr. Pauline Muchina, senior partnership advisor at UNAID, referenced the recently revised HIV/AIDS statistics issued by her organization, which dropped the estimated number of HIV infections from 39.5 million in 2006 to the current 33.2 million as the prevalence of infections worldwide has actually leveled off and even decreased. “If 2.5 million people are still getting infected each year, that’s not cause for us to relax — we still have a lot of work to do.”
That urgency was echoed by Vivian Berryhill, founder and president of The National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses. “Until the number is down to zero, we still have a problem, and we need all the funding we can get,” she said.
Summit workshops and plenary sessions were designed so anyone, regardless of whether they were just getting started in HIV/AIDS ministry or already established, could garner information and resources pertinent to their level of expertise.
The World Vision Experience: AIDS, an interactive walk-through exhibit, provided attendees the opportunity to assume the role of an African child, through which they could see, hear and intimately experience this crisis. They were also encouraged to attend Summit Connections Exhibits, where experts in the area of HIV/AIDS and other related fields shared their knowledge, networks and resources.
In an effort to provide training tools to educate people in high-risk areas about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and risky behavior, e3 Resources unveiled the HIV/AIDS Cube, a puzzle cube designed to share how to prevent infection and care for oneself and others living with the disease. Simple communication and powerful visuals are crucial in educating oral learners and bridging language barriers. The key, however, is in getting tested and knowing one’s status.
In the final session, Dr. Warren asked all of those present who are living with HIV/AIDS to join him and Kay on the platform for a special prayer together. “These are all people that Jesus loves, and we love them, too,” he said. “We are praying for an answer, that God would deliver them and so many others.
“Even though AIDS is a powerful disease, God’s will and purpose for our lives and His love for us is even greater,” Dr. Warren concluded. “As we go from here, we need to seek His help to make a difference – one life at a time.”
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