DAKAR, Senegal, MARCH 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Dakar is emphasizing that in order to combat AIDS in Africa, education in values is the most important necessity.
Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr explained Tuesday to Vatican Radio that since 1995, at the request of former President Abdou Diouf, Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in the struggle against AIDS.
He noted: “We said we could preach and exhort in favor of abstinence and fidelity, and we have done so, both Christians as well as Muslims. And if today the rate of AIDS infection in Senegal is still low, I believe it is thanks to the religious communities, which have emphasized morality and moral behavior.”
“Given that I don’t think that condoms can eradicate AIDS,” he affirmed, “I believe our appeal for abstinence and fidelity, in other words, for moral values and the observance of sexual customs, continues to be truly valid.”
The cardinal acknowledged that there could be difficulties in some countries of the continent “because there are different customs.” However, he stated “that it is necessary to know that Africa is very varied and that there are African societies that know the concept of abstinence and fidelity very well and cultivate it” and that it “is necessary to help them to continue to cultivate it.”
Speaking about Senegal’s situation, he expressed the fear that “if they start to distribute condoms massively to our young people, this will not help them and it will be very much more difficult for them to control themselves and to remain faithful until marriage.”
“I think that to help people through education to make the effort to control themselves continues to be a valid contribution for the prevention of AIDS,” he noted.
Cardinal Sarr observed, “It is a pity that instead of reflecting on how the Pope was received and especially all that he experienced with the peoples of Cameroon and Angola, some of the media put the accent almost exclusively on the question of condoms and abortion.”
“There were beautiful things on this trip that must be transmitted,” he continued. “Instead some found nothing better to do than fuel controversies which, moreover, were magnified, excessive as regards the rest of the content” of the Papal visit.
The cardinal asserted that “it is increasingly necessary that the West and Westerners stop thinking that they alone are the depositories of truth, that only what they conceive as the way of seeing and behaving is valid.”
Making a personal reflection on the Papal trip, the prelate said that “if the Pope put these two problems on the table, that of abortion and condoms, perhaps it is to remind us Africans, and especially Africa’s bishops, that it is better to think with our own heads and for ourselves; to live the Gospel and its values and to promote them for ourselves, to foster those values that don’t always seems to be our own.”
“In any case,” he concluded, “I have committed myself to work so that we can express ourselves and demonstrate that we have ways of seeing and acting that are valid, even if they are different from those that some propose to us.”