Bangkok (Fides Service) – Religious communities can do a lot to prevent the spread of AIDS in Asia: this was said during a recent meeting of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims in Bangkok, Thailand.
The local Catholic Church was represented by members of the Thai Bishops’ Conference Commission for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers and the Sick. Participants included Buddhist monks and Muslim Ulemas. Conferences were given by experts in various field who illustrated plans and programme for stopping the spread of HIV virus.
According to figures issued by the Thai Health Ministry the country has 217,000 HIV positive people (May 2003) of whom about 60,000 die every year, leaving about 300,000 orphans. Contagion by HIV/AIDS in Thailand is favoured by widespread prostitution, sex tourism and sexual exploitation of children.
Participants agreed that religious communities can help not only by showing compassion and assisting the sick but also in the preventative sense: encouraging a sense of morals, teaching young people about chastity and warning them of the danger of AIDS which is spread by morally wrong behaviour; by fostering respect for human dignity of each person.
At the two day meeting participants shared experience and views. One Buddhist monk told those present about the centre for AIDS patients he had opened next to his temple; a group of Protestant Christians illustrated course given to school children; Catholic representatives spoke of the AIDS prevention campaign launched in 1991 which is having success in all 10 dioceses in Thailand. It should be said that religious communities in Thailand receive no funding from the government for their work in the social field. Thailand has a population of 62 million, 90% Buddhist, 5% Muslim and 1% Christian. PA (Fides Service 9/9/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 318)