The Revd Desmond Cox
Chairman, St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre
'Our Church Has AIDS: Anglican Church Responds Worldwide' is the title of a video compact disk (VCD) launched at the 15th International AIDS Conference held in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2004. The VCD aims to reflect the response of the Anglican Church in different parts of the globe as the church aims to combat the AIDS pandemic.
The VCD was produced by the staff of St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre in Hong Kong. The Centre is the only faith-based institution in Hong Kong working in the HIV/AIDS area, and is a leader in this field in Asia. The VCD uses the resources of the Anglican Communion, including those from the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, the Mothers' Union, the Anglican Board of Mission Australia and the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) London.
The Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Most Revd Peter Kwong, introduces the programme, and is followed by an interview with the Revd Canon John L. Peterson, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. From there it takes us on a journey around the globe showing how the Anglican Church is addressing the AIDS pandemic.
At the recent International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, the Anglican Church was very much a visible presence in telling the story of how we as a Communion are responding to the AIDS pandemic. A booth was set up at the conference displaying resources either produced by the HIV Education Centre, or provided by our partners all over the world.
Four people from St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre went to the conference to staff the booth and to present several workshops over the course of six days. More than 13,000 people came to the display booth to either ask questions, receive a copy of the VCD or the excellent teaching kit 'Living Positively' produced by the Mothers' Union, or look at the very moving time-walk display 'Jesus Has Aids' produced by USPG London. The St John's Cathedral team was grateful for the assistance of Richard Trigwell living in Bangkok, but formerly from the Diocese of the Northern Territory Australia and The Northern Territory AIDS Council, who manned the display whilst other members of the team were presenting workshops or attending skills building programmes.
Ms Elijah Fung, the Manager of the St John's HIV/AIDS Education Centre and Ms Debby Lai, the Centre's Project Development Officer, presented two workshops entitled 'A Celebration of Life'. They used parts of a VCD of the same name that showed how the HIV Education Centre utilized drama, songs, and dance amongst migrant workers in Hong Kong in the education of safe sex and HIV/AIDS. Kevin She, a Board Member of the HIV/AIDS Centre, and Fr Desmond Cox, Chair of the Board, presented similar workshops using materials from the Mothers' Union. They also gave a presentation about the stigma and discrimination of Hong Kong clergy when faced with the issue of talking about HIV/AIDS. The presentation was based on the findings of a recent survey conducted amongst faith communities in Hong Kong.
Not only was the Anglican Communion's presence seen from the display booth and workshops, there were two other focal points. One was in the 'Global Village Spiritual Zone' where religious communities came together for worship and to exchange ideas, the other was the 'Inter-Faith Corner', again a place where people could come, meet, discuss and receive resources from faith communities around the globe.
This is the first International AIDS Conference that has given prominence to faith communities and religious leaders working to combat the AIDS pandemic. It was also the first time that the Anglican Communion has had such a presence at the conference. Through workshops, networking and open discussion some of the barriers have come down, and those who in the past have criticized the Church for doing nothing have been able to see, hear, and listen to how we are working with others to combat the AIDS pandemic. The presence of the Church at this important meeting is certainly a beginning, but it is just the start of a long journey.
St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre web site: www.sjhivctr.com
St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre
4-8 Garden Road