"Discrimination is not preached in any religion and hence we should identify how uniformly we can bring about the progress” said Param Poojya Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, during the Inter-faith Conference of ‘Working Meeting on Assessing and Adapting Religious Scriptures on their Respective Approaches to Illness and HIV’ which was held in The Art of Living International Ashram in Bangalore. "AIDS has no religion. Stigma and discrimination are the biggest hurdles in getting access to treatment", he says.
The two-day meeting, held on 12-13 March, 2011, was attended by various faith-leaders, delegates, people affected by HIV, partners from different NGOs and resource personnel from UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Program on HIV/ AIDS), NACO (National AIDS Control Organization) and the Art of Living. The religious leaders of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jain, Sikhism and Buddhism were present and were given a detailed presentation about HIV and the attached discrimination, which made them relate to the gravity of social stigma.
The discussion, which was moderated by Asa Anderson from UNAIDS, provided an open channel of communication for the leaders of the different faiths to interact together as well as within their religious groups. The different groups came out with presentations on their faith’s approach towards HIV/AIDS. A final draft was produced at the end of the meet, by the various Interfaith Leaders, collating the information, assessing and adapting religious scriptures on their respective approaches to Illness and HIV.
‘Training of Trainers’ workshop was conducted simultaneously for 15 Art of Living State Co-ordinators who will in turn will conduct such workshops for 40-50 Art of Living Teachers each, in their respective states. This workshop was facilitated by Fr. Phillip Kuruvilla and Dr. Asavari Herwadkar from INERELA+ and AINA. Apart from providing a road map for the various activities on the issues of HIV/AIDS, the workshop also focused on training for developing IEC (information, education and communication) material for the subsequent workshops.
The Art of Living believes in the message of love and humanity to deal with people infected with the HIV. It organized a Summit “Faith in Action” last September with over 500 religious leaders of various faiths from all across the country. It has also worked tirelessly to train rural youth to spread awareness about the infection in the villages.