Faith-based organisations central in HIV fight

Rev. Kuchera

THE slogan is zero new infections; zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths. This is the desire as a multi-sectoral approach to combat the HIV and Aids epidemic continues.
On April 5, I attended a national interdenominational dialogue organised by Africare Zimbabwe – an international non-governmental organisation – working in the area of health; supported, by Centres for Disease Prevention and Control.
It was a dialogue aimed at providing a platform for faith-based organisations/networks (FBOs) to share experiences on HIV and Aids activities they are carrying out in their respective church denominations, including discussions on latest developments.
The open dialogue was also meant to challenge FBOs to come up with response strategies in line with key issues emerging in the field of HIV and Aids.
Africare works with three FBOs in the implementation of HIV and Aids responses – the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MedRA) and Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (Udaciza).
Responses by FBOs are an area that the mainstream media has not widely reported on, despite the immense work that they do on the ground.
According to Geoff Foster, women and men of faith and the FBOs to which they belong are increasingly establishing support and prevention initiatives to assist people affected by HIV and Aids, especially in the most rural and impoverished regions of Africa.
In order to contextualise the role of FBOs, the writer highlights remarks from Reverend Murombedzi Kuchera who is not only an ordained church minister, but also National Aids Council chairperson.
He spoke on the role of the church in the national response to HIV and Aids, since the inception of the response programmes.
Remarked Rev Kuchera, “From the time of their establishment, churches have nurtured a very close relationship with the people, always responding to people’s challenges and sharing with them in the joy of the Lord.
“This sacrosanct relationship with the people has placed churches at the very centre of people’s struggles, be they political, social, health or otherwise. The church is thus a pillar of community development, always active and effective in community mobilisation, social integration, and salvation.”
He also said that “from the early years of the identification of the first HIV case in Zimbabwe, churches started organising themselves for a better response.”
This was as early as 1987 and the 1990s when interdenominational Aids conferences were held.
Rev Kuchera added: “Perhaps the most fundamental way churches have responded to HIV and Aids has been the preaching of morality as a basis of preventing HIV infection. This has included issues of abstinence among (the) youth, fidelity in marriages, non-cohabition, and other sexual unions that do not amplify God’s name.”
He also said, “Most churches have mainstreamed HIV and Aids education in their normal business while others conduct specific crusades and activities dedicated to educating people about HIV and how to prevent infection,” he added.
Remarking on the controversial issue of condoms, Rev Kuchera said, “Although the issue of use of condoms remains contentious among churches, it is fundamentally agreed that condoms prevent HIV and as a result some churches now promote the use of condoms among those people who are married or have made a choice not to abstain.”
He applauded the recent position taken by Pope Benedict XVI regarding condom use and the fight against HIV and Aids.
Rev Kuchera also emphasised the issue of choice, which he said was very fundamental in dealing with HIV from a Biblical perspective. “By educating people to uphold good morals, the church is essentially educating people to make a choice between life and death”, he said.
He added, “Making the right choice will ensure that we live in prosperity as promised by God in Jeremiah, 29:11, where the Lord says, “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”
According to an HIV and Aids policy document of the Heads of Christian Denominations published in October 2005, Christian churches have made a greater contribution to the national response to HIV and Aids.
The policy statement states: “Christian Churches in Zimbabwe stand unrivalled in the fight against HIV and Aids as seen in the 350 orphanages, 164 home-based care programmes, 55 counselling centres, 10 testing programmes, 55 youth and prevention programmes and peer education programmes and 125 medical institutions which care for a large percentage of HIV and Aids patients in rural Zimbabwe.”
Rev Kuchera said, “the programmes operate almost unnoticed and without fanfare. They are conducted with compassion and concern for all who need help without discrimination and with the same spirit of love that our Master exhibited”.
On ARVs, the NAC chairperson said, “Church-related hospitals are among leading providers of ARV drugs, drugs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission; HIV testing and counselling; community home based care and other services in response to community challenges.”
He commended the interventions by church-related hospitals, which has resulted in many lives being saved: “The church-related hospitals have almost formed the backbone of the national health delivery system; especially at a time when Government is confronted with economic challenges . . . Most major Christian churches today provide ARVs to the public at no cost.
“The Zimbabwe Association of Church related Hospitals was one of the first recipients of Global Fund resources to run anti-retroviral programmes in their hospitals.”
Rev Kuchera expressed his desire, “Although the churches are providing ARV drugs through their hospitals, we are also praying that God wipes out HIV and Aids.”
This is as it should be for according to Rev Kuchera, “The church, being close to the pulse of the people’s struggles and joys of survival, is without a doubt the best advocate of the people . . . the church continues to mobilise and lobby for resources within and without Zimbabwe for the provision of care and support. As a result, church run hospitals and institutions are some of the most trusted service providers of HIV prevention and treatment services. The majority of them are also very well managed.”
He added, “What I am most happy about regarding the role the church has played is that churches do all this to please God, without seeking any recognition and praise from the world. As Christians we do not praise ourselves and are not due of any praise in this matter as all praise is due to God.”
On voluntary counselling, the reverend said, “Counselling sessions with practical life skills and education, the church has always offered true friendship to the infected and affected. Where resources have permitted, the church has offered food, clothing, and personal entrepreneurial projects in addition to counselling.
“Orphaned children as a result of Aids have also been taken into homes and offered an opportunity to enhance their lives in the face of family and society bent on stigma and discrimination, sometimes worsened by child abuse.
“Churches have also taken a bold step in recognising the need for unity and coordination of the various efforts in response to HIV and Aids. As a result coordinative structures have been established while HIV and Aids policies have also been developed at various levels and faiths”, he said.
These FBOs included the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe, UDACIZA, ZCC, EFZ and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and others.
He also said that the National Aids Council was pleased with the role churches have played and continue to play in the national response. “The church has made far greater contribution to the national response to HIV and Aids especially in the areas of awareness campaigns and provision of treatment care services and support.”
Rev Kuchera was full of optimism as he concluded: “With God, Zimbabwe shall be free of HIV and Aids. This is the kind of Zimbabwe the churches are working towards. The contribution of the church in the national response to HIV and Aids has indeed animated the above beautiful words by God. Together with the churches, we can create a new Zimbabwe wherein HIV and Aids are no longer the cause of so much suffering.”
Forthcoming Events
Event: Threshing Floor Women’s Prayer Conference
Date: April 9
Partners: Faith Ministries, Borrowdale
Venue: Borrowdale Community Church, 315 Harare Drive
Time: 8am – 4pm
Facilitators: Pastor Chichi; Mrs Priscilla Wazara; Ms Alice Mutema and Mrs Claris Ranganayi
Contact: 0773940614
Event: 3rd Generation National Youth Confernce
Hosts: its Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM)
Dates: April 7 – 10
Theme: Redigging the wells (Genesis 28:18-22; 50:24 and Proverbs 22:28)
Venue: AFM Conference Centre, Chatsworth, Gutu
Speakers: Rev A Madziyire; Bishop Tudor Bismarck, New Life Covenant church, and more.
Event: Shekinah Glory Megafest 2011
Date: April 3-10
Time: 9am – 9pm
Theme: Living under open heavens (Matthew 6: 33)
Venue: Miracle Faith Centre, 5151 – 112th St, Warren Park D
Speakers: Pastors A Madziyire; Joey Turner; Collin Nyathi; Tom Deuschle
Hosts: Dr Ephiel and Pastor Elina Mukamuri, Logos Rhema Ministries International
Contact: 0772932895/0773975830/0772433048
Event: Christian Business Persons Marketplace Day
Date: April 9
Hosts: Logos Rhema Ministries International
Venue: Miracle Faith Centre, 5151 – 112th St, Warren Park D
Time: 8am – 3:30pm
Contact: 0772932895/0773975830/0772433048
Event: Youth rally (Kingdom Finance and Marketplace Dominion Rallies)
Date: April 9
Hosts: Logos Rhema Ministries International
Venue: Miracle Faith Centre, 5151 – 112th St, Warren Park D
Time: 3:30pm – 5pm
Contact: 0772932895/0773975830/0772433048
Event: Conference – New Gate Chapel in association with Word of Hope International Ministries
Date: April 23 – 24
Theme: Where is your brother? Genesis 4:9
Time: 9am – 3pm
Venue: 89 Rotten Row, (Opposite Harare Magistrates’ Court)
Speakers: Bishop Mbofana and Pastor Erasmus Makarimayi
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14)
To the Lord Jesus be the glory and honour – Amen!