Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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Caritas: Funding Gap Sets AIDS Fight 20 Years Back
Calls on Catholic Conscience in Pandemic Battle

VIENNA, Austria, JULY 20, 2010 ( Zenit.org ).- As experts from around the world gather in Vienna to discuss the fight against AIDS, Caritas is warning that a lack of funding could put the campaign 20 years back.

The International AIDS Conference began Sunday and will run through Friday. A Catholic pre-conference networking event brought people from 23 countries together for two days previous to the AIDS conference currently underway.

At the Catholic event, Monsignor Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis special representative on HIV and AIDS, spoke about the need for more funding to provide universal access to care.

It is estimated that $27 million is needed this year alone to fight the pandemic, and that a third of these costs will not be met, the agency noted.

Monsignor Vitillo reported that people are already being turned away from treatment facilities in countries such as Uganda, due to the lack of funds.

He warned that “neglecting HIV and AIDS will put millions of human lives at risk in poor countries.”

“If people don’t have access to treatment,” the priest continued, “we will return to the 1980s where there weren’t enough hospital beds and people were dying without receiving any care.”

Caritas expressed concern that children in particular will be affected by the cutbacks.

The Caritas “HAART [Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy] for Children” campaign is calling for better testing and treatment for children with HIV and TB in poor countries. The agency noted that without this medication for children with HIV, one half of that population will die before their second birthday.

The campaign workers gathered 20,000 signatures on a petition that will be given to an Austrian government representative. Monsignor Vitillo explained that these signatures demonstrate the concern of the Austrian people for those living with AIDS in developing countries.

Catholic approach

Caritas Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight also addressed the participants of the pre-conference Catholic networking event.

She said that “the three Cs — compassion, communion, and conscience — should underline a Catholic approach that fosters dialogue, cooperation, and an openness on how best to respond to the AIDS pandemic.”

Knight affirmed, “Our compassion needs to extend to people who are marginalized by society: to groups such as injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, and prison populations.”

“This presents us with the challenge of coming to terms with the realities of life for people within these groups,” she continued. “We need to be able to feel their suffering too and develop realistic solutions that will be effective in these diverse, difficult and complex contexts.”

“As Catholics we have much to share, but we also have an opportunity to listen and to learn,” Knight stated.

She added, “If we are to end the stigma of HIV infection and promote effective prevention strategies, we need to be able to enter into frank and honest dialogue about what are sometimes difficult issues for us to talk about.””As faith-based organizations,” Knight said, “we can appeal to the global conscience. We can promote the concept of one humanity and the idea that it is clearly wrong to do nothing while others suffer.”

She observed that “the development of a ‘global conscience’ is an important factor in putting pressure on our international institutions and governments to honor their commitments in tackling the HIV pandemic.”

Knight added, “It can also influence pharmaceutical companies to play their part in providing accessible affordable treatments.”

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Filed under: AIDS, Caritas

Advocates Urge Mexico to Protect Migrants in Transit

Central Americans Headed to US Suffer Kidnapping, Assault
SALTILLO, Mexico, JULY 13, 2010 ( Zenit.org ).- The director of a refuge for migrants in Saltillo is decrying a “humanitarian tragedy” that has involved thousands of illegal migrants who have been kidnapped or assaulted in Mexico as they travel toward the United States.

Gabriel Duperou, director of the Hostel for Migrants, along with Bishop Raúl Vera López of Saltillo, commented on the sixth report published by that institution regarding violence against migrants in transit.

The report laments that “political vacuums in various regions of Mexico, the collusion of authorities with criminals and the lack of access to justice are conditions that increase the vulnerability of the population that passes through the country en route to the United States.”

It is estimated that every year some 300,000 Central Americans cross the Mexican border illegally to go to the United States. According to data from human rights organizations, more than 1,600 people in Mexico illegally are kidnapped and assaulted each month in crimes that go unpunished.

“It is too bad that the security and migratory authorities do not duly attend to the problem of the kidnapping of migrants, particularly those coming from Central American countries, actions which are ever more violent and frequent,” noted Sister Leticia Gutiérrez Valderrama, executive secretary of the Mexican bishops’ migration council.

She said authorities do not take the matter as a priority, though the crimes are “a real act of barbarism, as [migrants] are tortured physically and psychologically.”

The nun explained that sexual assault is one of the most frequent crimes against these migrants, though it is not reported because the customary response is deportation.

Filed under: Migration

Holy See to UN on Gender Equality

“Women … Are Dynamic Agents of Development”
NEW YORK, JULY 2, 2010 ( Zenit.org ).- Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Thursday before the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session for 2010.

* * *

Mr. President,

This year’s substantive session is particularly pertinent leading up to the long expected World Summit on the MDGs. All women and girls who are affected by the MDGs look forward towards an increased recognition of their value and equality as well as their dignified role in development. Any deliberation on the matter will be incomplete without ensuring the advancement of women, who are dynamic agents of development in the family, society and the world.

Ever since world leaders committed their governments to the ambitious objective of attaining the MDGs, some remarkable progress has been achieved in mainstreaming women’s perspectives in development both in multilateral and national policies. Even those countries lagging behind in many aspects of development are giving more prominence to the role of women in public life, especially in the political arena.

The empowerment of women presupposes universal human dignity and, thus, the dignity of each and every individual. The notion denotes complementarity between man and woman, which means equality in diversity: where equality and diversity are based on biological data, expressed traditionally by male and female sexuality, and on the primacy of the person. It concerns also roles to be held and functions to be performed in society. In that regard, equality is not sameness, and difference is not inequality.

Empowerment of women for development means also recognition of the gifts and talents of every woman and is affirmed through the provision of better health care, education and equal opportunities. Empowering women and respecting their dignity mean also honoring their capacity to serve and devote themselves to society and to the family through motherhood which entails a self-giving love and care-giving. Altruism, dedication and service to others are healthy and contribute to personal dignity. If domesticity can be considered a particular gift of mothers in cultivating a genuine intrapersonal relationship in the family and society, then family-friendly working arrangements, shared family-care leave and redistribution of the burden of unpaid work will be given the attention they rightly deserve.

The Holy See notes with concern that inequalities between individuals and between countries thrive and various forms of discrimination, exploitation and oppression of women and girls persist, which must be addressed by the provision of adequate social protection measures for them, as appropriate to national contexts.

In the health sector there is a need to eliminate inequalities between men and women and increase the capacity of women to care for themselves principally by being afforded adequate health care. Scientific studies have shown remarkable improvement in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality, revealing the importance of complementary investing in other areas relevant to women and girls including nutrition, general health and education. The real advancement of women is not achieved by concentrating on a particular health issue to the neglect of others but by promoting their overall health which necessarily includes giving more attention to addressing women-specific diseases.

Women’s economic empowerment is essential for the economic development of the family and of society. Access to land and property, credit facilities and equal opportunities for financial services for women will help ensure their economic stability. In this process, the whole household and community must support their entrepreneurship. The ethical dimension of their development and economic empowerment as well as their service to the family must not be overlooked.

Tragically, violence against women, especially in the home and work place, and discrimination in the professional field, even on the pay and pension scale, are growing concerns. Through adequate legal frame-works and national policies, perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice and women must be afforded rehabilitation. Women and girls must be guaranteed their full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including equal access to education and health.

My delegation supports the initiatives in favour of the rights in particular of women migrants and refugees and women with disabilities. Human rights learning campaigns especially for girls and women must be promoted, even from early school days and also through non-formal education. Civil society and NGOs, women’s associations and faith-based organizations can contribute a great deal in human rights learning and in quality education.

In concluding, Mr. President, the more the dignity of women is protected and promoted, the more the family, the community and society will truly be fostered.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Filed under: Culture, Economic Policy, Official Statements, Social Justice