“The Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids (SINA) was formed recently by an inter-religious group concerned with the issue of HIV/Aids. It has established links with of a cluster of similar networks and together form the Asian Network on Aids (AINA) with Dr Erlinda Senturias as Consultant. It works in collaboration with the regional office of United Nations programme on Aids (UNAIDS) in Bangkok. These initiatives were made by the Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore and General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia who attended the recent International Congress on Aids in Asia and Pacific (ICAAP) in Busan, Korea.
SINA seeks to bring together those who are involved in providing faith-based services to people living with Aids in order to develop a more wholistic approach. Effective anti-retroviral medication are being supplied to needy Aids patients, counseling and support are given to them and their families and a shelter is provided for the homeless stricken with Aids. We can do more and we must do more. Appeals will be made especially to more religious people and institutions to address this public health issue which is a threat to all – regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. It has become a pandemic in our world and we are reminded of it on World Aids Day in December 1.SINA recognizes the urgent need of prevention of further spread of HIV through wider education including safe sex education in raising the consciousness of people. This HIV awareness will lead to caring for those who are afflicted, removing the stigma of the disease and eradicating discrimination of those with HIV/Aids.
The Ministry of Health has given the following report:
“In 2012, another 441 Singapore residents were newly reported with HIV infection. About 91% of the new cases were males and 9% were females. This brings the total number of Singaporeans living with HIV to 4,485 as of end 2010. As at 31 Dec 2010, 2,319 are asymptomatic carriers, 1,137 have or have had Aids related illness and 1,389 have died…
Of the 441 cases reported in 2010, 432 cases acquired the infection through the sexual route, with heterosexual transmission accounting for 52% of infections, homosexual transmission 37% and bisexual transmission 9%, intravenous drug use(4 cases) accounted for 1% of infections…
Over half (55% of all new cases reported in 2010 were aged between 30 to 49. years of age. Approximately 62% were single, 29% were married and 7% were divorced or separated.”
Our society has identified more than 4,485 people living with Aids now. They have been tested positive and 54% are already at a late stage of infection when tested. Thousands more live in denial and even afraid to go for testing for fear of losing their jobs and home and separation from their families and friends.
One such victim known only by the name of John lamented:”But my life changed when I was diagnosed as being HIV positive. I lost my job. With no income, I had to sell my flat to my siblings so that I could get some cash in hand to obtain treatment and HIV medication. My relationship with my family became strained when they found out about by HIV status. They chased me out of the house, the very same house in which we had all lived happily before. I had nowhere to go. I wandered around aimlessly and lived on the streets and beaches.” – John
Jacinta Rajoo in drawing our attention to John in her article in The Catholic News questioned us:
“So why are HIV/AIDS sufferers treated with such disdain? Why are they dealt the double or triple blow of not only being afflicted by this disease but also the pain of losing both material and financial freedom, or worst of all, their emotional and social support? “
It is generally known that Aids though contagious and incurable at the moment is just as death-threatening as other major diseases like cancer. With early detection and treatment people with Aids can live long and useful lives like the rest of us. We have the obligation to support and help one another.
Hillary Clinton early this month reported that:
“AIDS has killed 30 million people around the world, and 34 million are living with HIV today. In Sub-Saharan Africa—where 60 percent of the people with HIV are women and girls—it left a generation of children to grow up without mothers and fathers or teachers. In some communities, the only growth industry was the funeral business.”
She issued an appeal to Americans to usher in an Aids-free generation. This is a distinct possibility for all countries with the advance of medical science and social responsibility.
The worldwide call of UNAids is to “Get Together to Zero” – Zero tolerance of new Infections, Zero tolerance of Aids-related Deaths, Zero tolerance of Stigmatization and Discrimination.
It is achievable. It can be done. Together we can do it.”
– I received the above press release from Rev Yap today.
In Oct this year, I , as a volunteer with the group Explorations Into Faith, helped organise an Interfaith dialogue on Faith & the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Hosted by Rev Gabriel Liew and the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, the formation of this network, some initiatives it could take up, were some items discussed. Oct’s dialogue also brought together many people interested in the area of Faith & HIV, whom I believe have become key contributors to the SINA. Am really happy that Rev Yap & the SINA members have taken the initiative to tap on the resources & large following of different religious groups to help people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Singapore. While the much-needed material support like drugs, shelters, counselors, support groups can definitely be provided by NGOs, religious organizations quite “easily” once they put their minds to it, I hope that the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS can also be addressed. Hopefully, by engaging & educating religious leaders, their followers can also be influenced, since religious leaders are highly respected and believed here in Singapore.
If anyone has any interest in being part of the group, or if you know of anyone , or would like to recommend any of your religious leaders/staff (or even staff of religious schools), please feel free to contact me. If you know of anyone who can be helped by the Interfaith Network (not just for material support, by say, to speak with family members etc) , do contact me as well. There are people of all the major religious groups in Singapore within the SINA who would be most willing to help.
Perhaps I was a little harsh & did not explain myself clearly in my previous post on the 2 points I disagreed with Dr Chew about (nothing against him, I’m sure he’s a nice man, but he’s human too, with 2 views I disagree with) . So now i’ve taken sometime to elaborate, in reply to a couple of comments. Thought I’ll post it up here too.
On speaking up on disturbing teachings
Indeed, I think the listeners need to listen & discern & think critically. I think in reality, the church is made up of a great diversity of people. People who enjoy thinking and researching and questioning. People who have great amounts of respect and trust in their church leaders who have spent years at theological school. People who are incredibly psychologically and emotionally vulnerable and searching for salvation. People who are deeply insecure and looking for someone to love and accept them, and finding that in God. Because of this diversity, there will always be people who will be receptive to any message at all. Thus the responsibility of the person who teaches (James 3:1)
That said, every teacher, no matter how good, will not be perfect. Sometimes we don’t realise it until someone points it out to us. And so I think it is equally important for us to voice out teachings we are disturbed by, while of course, being aware we could ourselves be wrong too.
This was also why I was deeply impressed with Dr Gwee’s writing during the AWARE saga, when he pointed out to everyone, what he perceived was right and wrong, and how so many of us benefited from his writing as a result.
Martin Luther started the Reformation , not by staying silent or simply moving to another church. He wrote and spoke. He had no blog, but he nailed his 95 Theses to the door.
Jesus did not stay silent; He spoke up when he felt the leaders were teaching things outside of what the Scripture talked about.
I think all of us need to do the same, because a lot of times, many others have the same doubts but fear to voice out. When one person starts the conversation going, we may find that we are carrying burdens we don’t have to.
On non-traditional families, and on procreation
Indeed I believe the Bible affirms our desire to have children & considers it a blessing to have children, through it’s oft-qouted Genesis teachings.
I would applaud any preacher who quotes those verses, and affirms the listener’s desire for having a family. However, “the danger is that the mainstream population, its socio-cultural norms and ethos, will dwindle and diminish down the generations.” is not a Biblical principle. It’s all fine only if a preacher makes clear when he is presenting his own views, and when he is speaking from the Bible. It’s easy for listeners to be confused, if it is all said while he stands in the pulpit.
It would be even more wonderful, if the preacher also called on Christians to support each other through encouragement, through helping one another with family needs, through helping poor families provide better for their families. Because families are a blessing from God.
But to ignore Paul’s affirmation of singlehood, and to use those verses to make people feel less worthy or contributive because they are single/divorced parents, or choose to be childless, is unacceptable, IMO.
Think about how a woman who has an accidental pregnancy, decided to heed the Church’s teachings & keep the baby instead of aborting it, and doing her best to then raise this child, despite the prejudice and lack of govt support. How would she feel, after heeding the teachings of the church, to have the country’s Church leader then tell her that people like her are causing the decline of morals in the West?
Think about how a man who desperately tried to save his marriage but who’s unfaithful wife walked out anyway, abandoning his children, and how he tries his best to raise them not to hate their mother, only to have the Church leader turn around and tell him that divorce people like him are causing the moral decline?
Think about the woman who decides to remain single and childless because she has 2 aged parents and 4 grandparents still alive, to take care of, so that her brother can have more for his own children. How would she feel to have people tell her that she is disobeying Biblical commands to have children and that she was sinning because the decline in birth rate is going to erode social norms?
Think of the homosexual person, who decided that his pastor’s Biblical interpretation was right and homosexuality wrong, and so decided to remain single his whole life, rather than being in a gay relationship — which would piss off God supposedly, or being in a straight relationship — which would piss off his wife. How would he feel, after making this decision for the love of God, to have the church leader imply that people like him were contributing to “the danger that the mainstream population, its socio-cultural norms and ethos, will dwindle and diminish down the generations.”
These people may be in the minority, they may be in the fringe, they may often be overlooked
But I hope people remember also that the Bible talks about how God values even a singular person.
8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“Questionable takeover but crucial service” says the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Singapore “An alarm has been sounded on the promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”
Sounds like the Bishop is saying that questionable methods can be justified based on their ends. And that speaking up against prejudice & discrimination is a “promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”.
I’m glad my God — in the person of Jesus Christ — made a career out of speaking against the religious leaders of his day. He never flinched from being their public enemy No. 1, even until death.
I’m glad that JC preferred hanging out with the unfairly marginalised — those terminally ill with infectious diseases ( equivalent of the HIV affected), the Samaritans ( equivalent of the marginalised/discriminated ethnic groups), the prostitutes & thieves ( which incidentally is the group that the RIGHTEOUS people of society have put homosexuals in)
I’m glad that my God never made in a requirement for his faithful to agree with the religious leaders.
By the way, just some words that JC had for the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees were the name of such a group):
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt 23: 4)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
(Matt 23 : 13 – 15, 23 – 28)