"Not one [African] head of state showed up at the Eleventh International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases held in Lukasa, Zambia, last September," Newsweek reported in its January 17 issue. "No [AIDS-prevention] program will be successful," it editorialized, "unless African leaders get their own priorities right."
Perhaps the African heads of state all just had conveniently conflicting appointments. But the church leaders of Africa did show up for their meeting: the joint UNAIDS consultation with Christian development organizations in Botswana. Ten top church leaders, including four bishops, met with medical and development experts, observed AIDS-related ministries, and set goals for church involvement. No longer in a state of denial, church leaders are confronting both the moral and the ministry issues posed by Africa's towering AIDS tragedy.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY's Timothy Morgan was one of three journalists, and the only one from the United States, to observe that meeting (see "Have We Become Too Busy With Death?" on page 36). Tim enjoyed the sessions, especially watching the church leaders' role-playing as a "bishop" trying to decide whether to carry his message of sexual fidelity to the disco scene. He was greatly impressed by the church leaders he met. "They are enormously resourceful and well-educated," he says, and in the face of crisis, they work with genuine mutual respect.
Deeper impressions came from Tim's "exposure visit" to the slums of Nairobi. The conferees were divided into six teams, visiting AIDS ministries outside their own countries. Because of the difficulty of travel in Africa, many African leaders have not traveled widely. "This was the genius of the exposure visits," Tim says.
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