Canadian Anglicans marked World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, in a variety of ways that called attention to the immune-deficiency disease, raised funds for those living with AIDS and commemorated the dead in song and prayer.
In Belleville, diocese of Ontario, Christ Church held a candlelight service including music, prayer, meditation, drama and a presentation by the Quinte Grannies for Africa. A free-will offering went to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), which has an ongoing HIV/AIDS initiative called Partnership for Life – for a Generation Without AIDS.
Members of the Church of St. John the Divine in Victoria, diocese of British Columbia, organized a “U2charist,” a eucharist service featuring the music of Irish band U2, at the interfaith chapel at the University of Victoria. The church also hosted a dinner fundraiser for AIDS Vancouver Island.
In addition, a group participated in the Fly a Kite for AIDS awareness event, which was supported by PWRDF, the diocese and AIDS Vancouver Island.
Vancouver’s St. James Church presented an “Oratorio for AIDS” at a fundraising concert to benefit AIDS Vancouver and the Dr. Peter Centre, an AIDS care centre.
Rev. Ellen B. Aitken, the dean of religious studies at McGill University, was homilist at the annual AIDS Mass at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Montreal. She told the gathering that the Body of Christ is hosting the HIV virus, is learning to live with it and is praying for healing for those afflicted. The event was co-sponsored by the PWRDF.
In London, England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said churches must be brave, imaginative and honest in the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS. In a message delivered as an online video, Archbishop Williams said churches are actively engaged in the global response to HIV, but injustice exists.
“It is important that we do not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by this challenge; people do not have to die – drugs and treatment are available – the scandal is that access is so often limited and it is hard to see where justice lies in the way resources are sometimes distributed.” He also called for the church to be honest about its own failures in language and practice in relation to HIV.
Meanwhile, retired Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu said faith-based campaigners and religious leaders should not relax their efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic despite figures showing a drop in the number of people worldwide living with the virus. “This is not the time for complacency nor apathy,” said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in a Nov. 30 statement. “It is time for compassionate leadership.”
UNAIDS and the World Health Organization say the number of people living with HIV is down to 33.2 million from nearly 40 million.
With files from Anglican Communion News Service and Ecumenical News International