Churches and community groups are invited to make a poster, make a statement and make a difference by participating in an interfaith poster competition that focuses attention on fighting HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
The national competition is part of a larger global campaign organized by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), a network for international cooperation in advocacy on HIV/AIDS, global trade and peace.
A selection of the posters from the United States and other nations will be displayed March 5-8, 2004, in Washington, D.C., during the Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice. The deadline for submitting posters for the U.S. contest is Jan. 31, 2004.
A sample of posters will be exhibited at the United Nations on Dec. 1, 2003, World AIDS Day.
"The global poster competition is a dynamic and creative opportunity to learn and mobilize in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with a special focus on the hurt caused by stigma and discrimination," says the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive for health and wholeness advocacy and a member of the EAA's national steering committee. "HIV is not a virus that happens to 'someone else' or to other communities. It is present everywhere in the world, including the United States. Stigma and discrimination contribute to the spread of HIV and compound the suffering of those who are living with HIV and their loved ones. Silence about HIV/AIDS has perpetuated ignorance about the facts, risky behavior and death."
Compassion and changed attitudes are at the heart of the competition, says Schuenemeyer, and it is designed to be a vehicle for opening dialogue among persons and groups of all ages, especially those who may not normally be engaged in discussions about HIV/AIDS. Posters can be created by congregations, church school classes, camps, youth groups, women's groups, and other church/ community groups.
The UCC's Wider Church Ministries is among the more than 85 international churches and church-related organizations that have joined the alliance by committing to speak out with one voice against injustice; confront structures of power, practices and attitudes which deprive human beings of dignity; and offer alternative visions based on the Gospel.
Schuenemeyer says, "For Christian communities, silence and inaction are not options, and people of faith around the world are speaking out by participating in the competition. We're taking the cause of HIV/AIDS to the community level, involving youth and young adults in making a difference through honest dialogue and art."