Religious Leaders Pledge for Equality for People Living with HIV (PLHIV)

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
28th September 2010

The two-day 'Faith in Action 2010' commences today

Bangalore, (India): ‘Faith in Action 2010’, a two-day summit addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination, began today with the lamp-lighting ceremony by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation along with Munisri Jinesh Kumarji, Sri Jain Shvetambar Terapanth Sabha, Avtar Singh Makkar, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee, Golden Temple, Amritsar, Ervad Noshir Dadrawala, Centre of Advancement of Philanthrophy, Dryuhannon Mar Dios Corus, Metropolitan of Chennai, Syed Ghulam Kibria Dastagir, President, Anjuman Syed Zadjan, Ajmer Dargah Sharif, Swami Dharmavallabh Das, Swami Narayan Gurukul, His Holiness Phrakhrupipipsutatorn, AIMA, Thailand and Param Poojya Asaram Bapu. The first day of the summit saw the religious leaders taking a pledge to work tirelessly to remove all forms of stigma, discrimination, isolation and marginalization of people living with and affected by HIV.

The thoughts shared by people living with HIV/AIDS at the summit strengthen the fact that religious leaders play an inevitable role in fostering the process of reconciliation that is so urgently needed to bring families and communities divided by HIV AIDS back together.

Also present were Chhagan Bhujbal, Deputy Chief Minister, Maharashtra; Rajeev Bindal, Hon’ble Health Minister, Himachal Pradesh; Ravi Aggarwal, Hon’ble Health Minister, Chhatisgarh; Thakodave, Home Minister, Arunachal Pradesh and Laxmikant C Hawla, Hon’ble Health Minister, Punjab.

The discussion platform was shared by religious heads like Sri Sri Pejawarshree Galu, Sri Suttur Math; Maulana Omar Ahmed Ilyasi, General Secretary, All India Council of Mosques and Imams; Bishop Dr T Sagar, National Council of Churches; Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar, Akal Takht; Lama Tsering Chosphel, General Secretary, All Ladakh Gompa Association and Ervad M Bharucha,Panthaky, Bai Chenoy Fire Temple.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “Stigma and discrimination remain the biggest hurdles in getting the access to treatment. It is overwhelming to see organizations like Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS), HEROES Project, International Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+) and Asian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS, India (AINA-India) with technical support from UNAIDS, UNICEF, USAID and AIDS Prevention and Control project–Voluntary Health Services (APAC-VHS) join the initiative to eradicate this stigma from the society. We expect the conference to conclude with a declaration endorsed by eight different faith leaders in India outlining their role in contributing to the AIDS response within a commonly agreed framework.”

The summit registered keynote addresses from Prof. Charles Gilks, Country Coordinator UNAIDS India, Karin Hulshof, India Representative, UNICEF, Mr R R Jannu, and PD Karnataka State AIDS Control Society. There were discussions on the role of religious leaders in dealing with stigmas and discrimination against eople living with HIV AIDS.

The Faith in Action summit, held at the Art of Living International Center in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, is being attended by over 300 religious leaders across faith and states with a strong representation and participation from people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Faith in Action also provided for workshops and sensitised religious leaders across faith by dividing the religious leaders in groups and conducting group workshops on stigmatisation and role of faith-based organizations in addressing the issue. An active participation during group workshops by people living with HIV also led to a reflection of the expected outcomes on the Day 1 of the summit.