Faith leaders to cite scriptures to spread awareness against HIV/AIDS

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
12th March 2011

Bangalore,“None of the great religious scriptures of the world teach and preach discrimination against people suffering with HIV and AIDS," said Art of Living founder, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. "We have gathered here to find solutions from our great scriptures which would authenticate our contention that there should not be any discrimination. We need to come out of the discrimination and the fear of it and uniformly create awareness about the seriousness of the calamity which is facing the society today," he continued.

Gurudev was addressing various inter-faith heads, scholars who have gathered at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore for a two-day working meeting, from March 12-13. The meet is being held to assess and adapt the different approach of religious scriptures to illness and HIV. “Our aim is to come to a zero. Zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related deaths and zero discrimination,” said Asa Anderson, UNAIDS.

Top scholars and heads representing Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths will study the respective approaches and collate it in a document to be used by NACO and the Department of Health and Family planning for public messages on HIV and AIDS. The heads and scholars include Chandra Prakash Kaushik, National President, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha; Achaya DR. Gopal Khettry, Bhabar Harbola Mandir Trust, West Bengal; Munishree Mani Kumarji, Vice President, Shree Mahendra Muni Mission Trust; S Dharminder Singh Ubha, Principal, GSSDGS Khalsa College, Patiala (SGPC, Sri Amritsar); Doctor KJ Farooqi, All faith Forum; Konchok Choster; Vice President, All Ladakh Gonpa Association; Dr Mohd. Fakim Akhtar Nadvi, Maulana Azafd National Urdu University, Hyderabad; Dr K. Jamaluddin Farooqi, Department of Arabic, WMO Arts & Science, Wayanad, Kerala; Ms. Beryl Logan, United Evangelical Churches in India - UELCI, Chennai.

Citing the importance of faith-based organizations, Father Philip Kuruvila, Co-ordiantor, INERELA+ , said, “Faith leaders have greater reach and a spiritual mandate and they can challenge the stigma against people suffering from HIV and AIDS with courage and conviction."

The inter-faith meeting is organized by the Art of Living in partnership with UNAIDS, AINA (Asian Interfaith Network on HIV and AIDS), Indian Interfaith Coalition on HIV AIDS following a directive from the Government of India, Department of Health and Family Planning.

“The visibility of strong religious leadership and adapting the scriptures in response to HIV will galvanize the national response at a critical moment. It will create greater awareness and more accurate information and perceptions by and about faith communities and religious leaders in relation to HIV and AIDS,” said Richa Chopra, Director, Projects Management Unit, the Art of Living.

Simultaneously, Indian Inter faith Coalition on HIV AIDS and International Network of Religious leaders living with HIV AIDS (INERELA) is conducting a training on various issues related to HIV and AIDS for the Art of Living volunteers who would then travel across the length and breadth of the country to spread awareness and educate the masses on HIV AIDS.

The Art of Living in collaboration with UNAIDS has been actively working towards creating awareness and reducing the stigma in people suffering from HIV AIDS.