Gospel concert part of faith-based advocacy around AIDS 2012 conference

Gospel concert part of faith-based advocacy around AIDS 2012 conference

A UCC minister will host a free gospel concert to conclude the first day of the worldwide AIDS 2012 conference in Washington, D.C., next week. "One Voice: Gospel Artists Respond to AIDS," hosted by Bishop Yvette A. Flunder, takes place July 23 at the Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church , as a celebration of hope in the collective struggle against AIDS. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. General seating will be available.

"The 'One Voice' gospel concert is a coming together of richly diverse people of faith who are sharing our time and talent to bring awareness to the fight against AIDS," said Flunder, founder of the City of Refuge UCC, who also will perform at the event. "This is faith in action that recognizes that the struggle against AIDS is a struggle against shame, fear, gender bias and poverty. We will join our hearts and with 'One Voice' we will sing songs of hope."

Other concert guests include All Souls Jubilee Singers, Clifton Ross III, Covenant Baptist Church Choir, Exousia, Jack Yates, Marvin Matthews, MCC of Washington D.C. Choir, Ray Boltz, Rizi Timane, Rusty Watson, Teresa Teri, Terrance Cotton, and Vanessa Torres.

The concert will wrap up a schedule of faith-based events taking place in conjunction with "Taking Action for Health, Dignity and Justice," an interfaith preconference at Howard University July 20-21. The preconference is a prelude to AIDS 2012, the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.  The conference is taking place in the United States for the first time in 22 years. During the preconference, people from many of the world's major religions will explore how communities can further contribute to building health, dignity and justice in the context of HIV, and how they can fight stigmas associated with the disease. The preconference will offer three plenary sessions, numerous workshops, and prayer service at the National Cathedral, among other events.

HIV advocates agree there is immense potential for religious leaders and faith-based communities to be active in the HIV and AIDS response.

"Not only can many religious leaders influence national policy and decision making as well as public opinion, they also have the capability to generate positive, compelling, and long-term commitment to effectively breaking the silence around HIV and to fight the stigma and discrimination attached to the pandemic," said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive of the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy for the United Church of Christ and the executive director for UCAN, Inc. (the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network). "Religious leaders and faith-based communities have the capacity to reach people from the 'halls' of political and policy-making power to the grassroots level and, in certain settings, can influence individuals through the appropriate use of their ministries."

Preconference speakers will include Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Justice (USA); Maria Ziwenge, a young woman living with HIV in Zimbabwe; Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator; and roughly 400 other religious leaders and representatives in the global HIV response.

"Turning the Tide Together in the U.S.: A National Faith Response" is another key faith initiative leading up to AIDS 2012. The Sunday workshop and rally will aim to gather a strong and viable coalition of U.S. faith leaders and communities committed to working together to address the domestic and global HIV pandemic. The event, July 22 from 2 to 5 p.m., will also a press conference and prayer on the steps of Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church.

For more information about the preconference, visit www.faithinactioncoalition.org.

AIDS 2012 will take place July 22-27 in Washington, D.C. The conference aims to build a strong community of support for HIV response and work with others to disseminate information, build international networks, envision and create effective collaborations, and provide an important witness for inclusion, compassion, justice, healing and human rights. More information on the conference here

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