AFRICA-MADAGASCARResponding to AIDS in Southern Africa
About a hundred delegates attended the first academic conference ever organised by St Joseph's Theological Institute, in Cedara. This conference resulted from the establishment of the St Joseph's Collaborative Research Group, an initiative by Fr. Stuart BATE, recently appointed Research and Development officer at the Institute.
The theme of the conference was Catholic Responses to AIDS in Southern Africa, 30 years after the discovery of HIV. The conference was held in collaboration with the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference AIDS office.
Delegates included Catholic AIDS activists in the field in Southern Africa as well as staff from the SACBC AIDS office, academics from KZN, Gauteng and the Western Cape, academics from St Joseph Theological Institute, and a number of bishops from the SACBC region.
The conference heard 20 original papers from a variety of speakers. Members of the SJTI collaborative research group presented papers on various subjects including theological education, spiritual direction, theology of HIV prevention, interreligious dialogue and the experience of moral education in the Brazilian church.
Fr. Michael Czerny from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican described the response of the Catholic Church globally to HIV and AIDS. Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator from Hekima College in Nairobi provided an overview of the response of the Catholic Church in Africa. These two papers provided the context for a comprehensive presentation of the Church’s response in Southern Africa presented by Sr. Alison Munro the director of the SACBC AIDS office. Cardinal Wilfred Napier, OFM, described the Church’s response in an urban Diocese (Durban). Bishop Kevin Dowling, CSsR, described the Church’s response in a more rural Diocese (Rustenburg).
A “call to for papers” on the theme elicited a number of other important presentations at the conference. These included the Church's response in Antiretroviral rollout in South Africa; The provision of care for nurses involved in caring for terminally ill patients in hospitals; the issue of condoms and the Catholic church; and the important role of women religious in driving the response of the church to HIV and AIDS in southern Africa.
Some of the more academic articles will be published in a special issue of our Institute Journal, Grace & Truth, after going through the peer review process. After that all the articles will be published as a book.
The conference was widely reported by the press, both
locally and internationally. This
included exposure on Vatican radio and the Vatican Press; at Carlton University
in Canada; in Germany at Missio Aachen; in Kenya on the AJAN site; in the Southern Cross and in the international aidsbuzz network (www.aidsbuzz.org).
The recently established Collaborative Research Group at St Joseph’s Theological Institute will bring together academics from SJTI in a collaborative research project every year. We hope to partner with other Catholic NGOs and activist organisations in order to bring an academic perspective and reflection to the work of the Church. We hope more academic staff will join in 2013 so that SJTI can participate in both aspects of the mandate given to us by Pope Benedict XVI in Africae munus:
Dear brothers and sisters in Catholic universities and academic institutions, it falls to you, on the one hand, to shape the minds and hearts of the younger generation in the light of the Gospel and, on the other, to help African societies better to understand the challenges confronting them today by providing Africa, through your research and analyses, with the light she needs. [Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI To The Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons And The Lay Faithful On The Church In Africa In Service To Reconciliation, Justice And Peace §135] (From Networking Cedara February 2013)