Muslim and Christian religious leaders join hands in supporting people living with HIV/AIDS

Khartoum, 25th February 2008: Yesterday, over 50 key religious leaders from both the Christian and Muslim faiths joined together to fully endorse the first training curriculum. This module focuses on enabling religious figures to promote spiritual values of care and compassion for People Living with HIV/AIDS.

This event is the outcome of the first forum held in 2006 which brought together approximately 100 Christian and Muslim religious leaders to discuss their role in responding to HIV/AIDS in Sudan. The forum was organized by Sudan National AIDS Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Guidance and Endowment. Consequently, the Ministry of Guidance and Endowment, committed itself to establishing an AIDS Council in the Ministry with the mandate to build the capacity of the religious leaders to effectively contribute to the HIV/AIDS response in Sudan.

Following this, religious leaders and specialists gathered in a two day workshop last week to finalize a training curriculum to build the capacity of religious leaders in responding to HIV/AIDS in Sudan. Yesterday’s event came as a demonstration of commitment from religious leaders and government officials to advocate for the protection of the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. The event included speeches from key religious and governmental figures who expressed their determination to support people living with HIV/AIDS.

With a strong reference to the religious teachings of compassion, Dr. Tabitha Butrus, Federal Minister of Health emphasized the role of women and said “My message to you today is one of love, support and solidarity. I wish here to commend the role of women in Sudan and stress on the fact that they are the most affected with HIV/ AIDS and I wish to reiterate my support and the Ministry’s support to women who carry the burden of HIV /AIDS in families and are in their own way fighting this disease.” She concluded by saying “I also wish to call on religious leaders to stand up to their responsibility in this society and raise the awareness of the public in order for them to assist those living with HIV/AIDS and refrain from discriminating against them.”

Emphasizing that HIV/AIDS is like any other disease and anyone is susceptible to it, Dr. Hassan Abu Asha, Sate Minister of Health, said ” Nobody is immune to any disease and we should all accept whatever comes our way, we are all one family and are all vulnerable to this disease. “ He reiterated that HIV/AIDS is a reality and we should face it, and should help and support people living with HIV/AIDS.

Bishop Adi Ambrose, Director of Churches, Ministry of Guidance and Endowment, stressed that people living with HIV/AIDS have been “rejected, disowned and thrown out of their homes. As people who love God, we need to stand together and give hope to those losing hope”. He also made it clear that HIV/AIDS “has no tribe, no culture and no religion” therefore Muslims and Christians alike must unify their efforts to respond to this disease.

Recognizing HIV/AIDS as a crisis of “enormous spiritual, social, economical and political proportions”, Mr. Jerzy Skuratowicz, UNDP Sudan Country Director, highlighted the tolerant and hospitable nature of Sudanese society, and addressed the religious leaders saying “we hope that your esteemed support will help people living with HIV/AIDS to be pulled out of this isolation as your religious guidance and leadership is instrumental in eliminating stigma and discrimination.” He concluded by commending the governments initiative in responding to HIV/AIDS in Sudan.

Bishop Sarabamon, Orthodox Church, said “we should not discriminate against those who have HIV/AIDS; we should encourage them to overcome their disease.” Speaking to those fearing people living with HIV/AIDS, he reminded them that “God forgives and calls on us to forgive and to exercise tolerance and clemency when dealing with others.”

Mr. Alfatih Mukhtar Mohammed, Head of External Relations and Communication at the Ministry of Guidance and Endowment, stated that “religious leaders have access to all sectors of the society and this is why we highlight their important role in the fight against AIDS. Also reminding the audience of the universality of humanity, Mr. Mukhtar concluded that “an individual living with HIV/ AIDS is someone passing through an ordeal and who God wished to test; he is our brother and we should not discriminate against him.”

Speaking on behalf of the Presidential Advisory for Authentication Affairs, Mr. Abubakr Chol Deng, concluded the ceremony by commending the efforts of SNAP, The Ministry of Guidance and Endowment, The Ministry of Health and the UNDP in responding to HIV/AIDS in Sudan. He further asserted that the newly endorsed curriculum will be used in all regions of the country.

Over 50 key religious leaders, Associations for People Living with HIV/AIDS, UN representatives, and government representatives all attended the ceremony. The event was hosted and organized by the Ministry of Guidance and Endowment, in collaboration with Sudan National AIDS Programme and supported by UNDP.

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For more information on the Ceremony please contact:

Dalia M. El Roubi, Communications Analyst, UNDP Sudan, Mobile +249 012154652; Email dalia.elroubi@undp.org
Yusra Salim, Communications Specialist, UNDP HIV Unit, +249912283555; Email: yusra.salim@undp.org
Fatima Elsheikh, Programme Officer, UNDP Sudan; Email: fatima.elsheikh@undp.org


UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.