Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence

Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence

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Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis

More than twenty years into the global AIDS pandemic, the efforts of Christian congregations and denominations have been less than minimal. This book is aimed to awaken Christian compassion in the coming years to this fathomless tragedy.

The worst health crisis in the world in 700 years, global HIV/AIDS epidemic is overwhelming in scale: 40 million people are infected worldwide (75% of them in Africa); 7000 people die daily; each day 1600 persons are infected. Some 26 million people have already died.

''At this unprecedented kairos moment in human history,'' says Messer, ''God is calling the church to a new mission and ministry.'' Drawing on his own involvement in global AIDS education in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, Messer uses stories, basic factual information, and theological insights to motivate lay and clerical Christians to assume leadership and form partnerships with Christians around the world in this struggle. Just as individuals must change their behavior to prevent and eliminate AIDS, so must congregations and church leaders. Compassion, not condemnation, is desperately needed, says Messer. But financial resources for education and prevention programs are also urgently required from churches. Messer shows how churches can partner with ecumenical organizations, relief agencies, volunteer mission programs, healthcare programs, and other agencies to engage global AIDS directly and effectively.


''This important book is a powerful cry from the heart authored by a brilliant and esteemed educator and religious leader. Dr. Messer . . . eloquently calls upon Christians to wake up and respond with compassion and action. To do less is to spurn the central message of the Lord and Savior—that we care for each other and especially the afflicted.''
— George McGovern, former U.S. Senator, and first U.N. Global Embassador on World Hunger
''A passionate and well articulated call to mission ... Messer charts steps for individuals, congregations, denominations, and ecumenical agencies in a faithful response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.''
— The Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
'' Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence provides a forthright and challenging analysis of how the teachings of Jesus Christ can be used by Christians of all denominations to mobilize in new ways against the global AIDS pandemic. Messer offers visionary teachings and perspectives that are essential for all people of faith who believe that together we can create a better world.''
— Dr. Paul Zeitz, Global AIDS Alliance
''Writing in a compelling, engaging style, Messer finds a workable, sensible, and morally defensible common ground between conservatives and liberals, who remain polarized over aspects of AIDS prevention.''
— Edward C. Green, Harvard School of Public Health
'' Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence is the finest book I have read on the role of the church in this struggle with HIV/AIDS. Challenging our cherished beliefs, illuminating our darkest fears, confronting our secret complacency, and questioning our commitment, he directs us to the compassionate Lord Jesus. I feel every pastor needs to read this book.''
— Allan R. Handysides, Director, Health Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists World Church
''For too long the church has been asleep to the AIDS crisis taking place across our planet. Messer provides a much-needed wake-up call to Christians everywhere that not only must something be done, but also it can be done—beginning with you and me. This is a must read for every believing Christian.''
— Margaret Feinberg, author of twentysomething and Simple Acts of Faith
''Messer calls for a 'new holy boldness' and for a spirit of 'apostolic-like' risk-taking that the churches have scarcely tapped. He tackles our parochial and prejudicial boundaries around sexuality and risk-taking behaviors and calls for an empowering interfaith vision of hope. An important work at a time when 'compassion fatigue' in the West is deep and the global pandemic threatens obliteration of entire communities. Required reading for our communities of faith.''
— Dr. Jon A. Lacey, Interim Director, Council of Religious AIDS Networks
'' Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence is a call for action, covering all the topics on which Christians need to be informed. Messer addresses boldly and directly the sensitive topics of sexuality, homosexuality, and gender inequity, and the sometimes unhelpful attitudes of the church, which too often demonstrate more love of laws than the law of love. Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence is personal and readable as it calls for a paradigm shift in the church's traditional perception of AIDS.''
— Ray Martin, Executive Director, Christian Connections for International Health

Table of Contents

    The Voice of God
    Jesus in the AIDS Hospital
    Word Becomes Flesh
    An Essay in Practical Theology
    Defining Terms: HIV/AIDS
    Words of Gratitude
  • The Church and Global AIDS

    Global Emergency
    From Denial to Constructive Engagement
    A Global Portrait of HIV/AIDS
    Updating Global Statistics
    Toward Global Statistics
    Reclaiming the Essence of the Church
    An Ecumenical and Interfaith Response
    One by One by One
  • We Are All HIV-positive

    Facing Stigmatization and Discrimination
    We Are All Dying
    Courage and Hope of HIV/AIDS Victims
    It's Not Our Problem
    It's Not Christian to Talk about Sex
    It's Somebody Else's Responsibility
    Compassion, Self-Interest, and Challenges Ahead
  • Facing and Responding to Sexual Realities
    AIDS and Sexual Behavior
    Responding with Christian Love
    What If?
  • Stigmatization and Discrimination
    Stigmatization and Discrimination as Sins
    Resisting Sin
    AIDS Is Not a Dirty Word
  • Women, Children, and HIV/AIDS
    An "Equal Opportunity" Disease
    The Patriarchy Problem
    An Ethical Response
    Hearing and Heeding Women's Voices
  • The ABCs of Prevention
    A Is for Abstinence
    B Is for Be Faithful
    C Is for Condoms
    Other Letters in the Alphabet of Life
    Ethics in a New Key
  • A World without AIDS
    An Unexpected, Unwelcome Banquet Guest
    Love in a Time of AIDS
    Realistic Idealism
  • Ensuring Care, Testing, Counseling, and Treatment
    Care, Not Cure
    Testing, Not Denial
    Competent, Compassionate Counseling
    Saving Grace
  • Global Hope in a Global Emergency
    Awakening a Sleeping Church
    A Liturgical Response to the Global Emergency
    Signs of Global Hope
    Hopeful Models: Partnerships to Save Lives
    Faith, Hope, and Love
Appendix: Avoiding HIV/AIDS
Selected Bibliography

Product Info

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800636418
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 216
  • Publication Date February 24, 2004