AIDS to Orphanages: the Concerns of East Africa

Conclusions of Regional Conference of Women Religious

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NAIROBI, Kenya, SEPT. 12, 2002 ( More than 100 Catholic women religious during an 11-day conference tackled a range of topics ranging from evangelization to AIDS to orphanages.

The Sisters of Eastern Africa Study Conference, which marked its silver jubilee Aug. 24, also adopted a new name: the Association of Consecrated Women of Eastern and Central Africa. The new name reflects that the regional body has begun admitting women from secular institutes, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported.

Archbishop Paul Bakyenga launched the conference Aug. 19. Its theme was “Religious Formation in the New Millennium.” Archbishop Bakyenga is the chairman of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa.

Conferees reflected on a variety of issues, including formation programs, sexuality and sexual abuse, African traditional values, involvement in small Christian communities, and the threat of HIV/AIDS. Each of the eight national teams drew up a plan of action.

Sisters from Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda included in their action plans the impact of HIV/AIDS and of war on the consecrated life. The Zambian delegation planned to hold workshops not only “on the inculturation of vows,” but also on the family, HIV/AIDS and orphans.

Sisters from Uganda plan to establish “congregational funds to support orphans,” and to solicit and distribute funds “to congregations to support orphans.” They also plan to “encourage sisters affected directly or indirectly by HIV/AIDS to take counseling from skilled persons.”

The Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya proposes to raise HIV/AIDS “awareness through major superiors at national, district and congregational levels” and “through programs organized by AOSK at all levels such as formators, novices, ongoing formation courses, etc.”

Issues on Islam appear in the action plans of Kenya and Sudan. AOSK said, “We realize that the spread of Islam is a threat in Kenya and many of us are not aware of the impact it has on Christianity.” They recommend that “each congregation include a study of major religions,” and send members to study Islam.

The Sudan Sisters’ Association propose to study their members’ role in the context of Islam, and to “make the Islamic plan known to the faithful; and create awareness of the weapons of Islam: hunger, destruction of hospitals, and interreligious marriages.” Sudan’s population of 30 million is 65% Muslim and 23% Christian.

Tanzania is determined to train competent formators, in order to steer the sisters’ conference toward achieving their vision of holistic formation. They are aware of major stumbling blocks, including lack of academic training for their sisters, financial problems and lack of personnel.

Sisters from Ethiopia plan to organize seminars for formators in order to study Ethiopian cultural values.

The Association of Religious Women in Eritrea plans “to study and deepen our cultural heritage and our Christian faith.” They propose to reach out and even help soldiers in the camps to recover their family, Christian, cultural and human values.

Meanwhile, the conference of the International Union of Secretaries General will be held later this year in Nairobi. It would be its first such conference outside Italy.

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