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Clergy Urge Action on Africa AIDS Crisis

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Religion News Service

Leading African American clergy, including Bishop Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, have issued an open letter to black leaders urging them to address the AIDS crisis in Africa.

“What verdict will our descendants render upon their ancestors who stood silently as a generation of African children were reduced to a biological underclass by this sexual holocaust?” said the letter, dated Tuesday.

“Why have black churches, especially the seven major black denominations, not used their unique position to serve as more effective advocates for the needs and interests of millions of orphans in Africa?” they asked. The letter details the devastation of AIDS, which it calls the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. It notes that the United Nations Program on AIDS reports that of the 5.6 million new HIV infections in 1999 worldwide, 4 million were in Africa. Two-thirds of the world’s AIDS cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.

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In addition to Blake, signatories include the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a prominent Boston minister and the co-founder of the National TenPoint Leadership Foundation, and the Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard, chairman of the board of the National Black Evangelical Assn.

The writers urged black U.S. leaders to focus on public education, political advocacy and humanitarian assistance concerning the crisis and to combat trends, such as the high rate of rape in South Africa, that lead to escalating numbers of HIV infections.

“Black leaders must challenge African leadership to be more accountable to the needs of their own women and children,” the letter said.

“They should develop a strategic alliance with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank and other international lending agencies to demand debt forgiveness for African nations, thereby freeing up financial resources to be redirected toward the AIDS crisis.”

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