19 November 2012


Evidence presented at the International AIDS Conference “Turning the Tide Together” in Washington DC this year suggested that significant recent breakthroughs could well be changing the trajectory of the epidemic.

Key factors which are having a big impact on the progress of the global spread of the disease include:
- Wider coverage of AntiRetroViral treatment
- A greater commitment to eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping mothers alive
- Effectiveness of HIV treatment in preventing further spread of the virus
- Greater community engagement.

One example of this greater community involvement in which Edmund Rice Schools around the world have participated is the Caritas Internationalis HAART for Children campaign which advocates for increased research and development by pharmaceutical companies to formulate low-cost anti-retroviral medicines, adapted for use in low-income countries, for children living with HIV.

World AIDS Day on 1 December brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. Between 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths".

The campaign focus on "Zero AIDS related deaths" signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now. It is a call to honor promises and for African governments to at least hit targets for domestic spending on health and HIV.


UN Photo/John Isaac

In an appeal to European Countries to support Palestine's bid for UN non-member observer status, 100 Christian leaders have signed a statement denouncing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as 'a sin against God and humanity'.

The statement notes that Palestinian Christians are the descendants of the first Christians who are also an organic and integral component of the Palestinian people who like their Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters, have been denied their national and human rights for almost a century.

Palestine's Christians have endured dispossession and forced exile ever since 1948, when two thirds of them were forcibly expelled from their homes and since then their very presence has been under threat.

Their message is simple: to achieve peace, the world must also say enough to occupation and the degradation of human dignity.

The statement forcefully re-iterates that the current status quo is untenable. "On one side, there is a people under occupation and on the other, a belligerent occupying power that works tirelessly to distance us from the peace we seek and pray for. Ending Israeli occupation is the only way for Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, to enjoy a life of prosperity and progress."

The present initiative to enhance Palestine’s status in the United Nations to an Observer State is seen as a positive, step in the right direction for the cause of a just peace in the region.

The statement was issued before the latest outbreak of violence and current escalation of hostilities.


“In some States, converts may face criminal prosecution, at times even including the death penalty, for offences such as ‘apostasy,’ ‘heresy,’ ‘blasphemy’ or ‘insult’ in respect of a religion or the country’s dominant tradition and values,” stated Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief when presenting his report to the UN General Assembly.

The General Assembly was reminded that whilst the right to choose one's religion is unconditionally protected under international human rights law, members of religious minorities often experience pressure to join a religion deemed more ‘acceptable’ by the majority, and converts are frequently pressured to reconvert to their previous religion sometimes by Government agencies.

The report also highlighted the legal and administrative restrictions on religious outreach imposed by states, the threats and pressures often placed on men, but particularly women, to convert to the religion of their spouses or future spouses, and repressive measures directed towards children of converts or members of religious minorities which violate the child’s freedom of religion or belief and/or the parents’ right to ensure an education for their children in conformity with their own convictions.

The report makes a series of recommendations to States urging the consistent respect, protection and promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief in the area of conversion, which ought be reflected in domestic legal provisions, State administrations and public institutions, as well as in the conduct of non-State actors.

An increasing level of harassment and persecution of religious groups has been identified in a report recently released by the Pew Research Center with Christians being the group most frequently targeted group, undergoing harassment by government officials or organizations in 95 countries in the year ending in mid-2010, and by social groups or individuals in 77 countries.

Separate estimates from Aid to the Church in Need and the Center for the Study of Global Christianity  suggest that globally anything from 100,000 to 150,000 Christians die for their beliefs each year.


"Every day, 7,500 people die due to a lack of sanitation, 5,000 of whom are less than 5 years old. Every year, 272 million schooldays are missed due to water-borne or sanitation-related diseases,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation , Catarina de Albuquerque noted on World Toilet Day (Nov 19th).

“Access to sanitation currently ranks as the most-off track of the Millennium Goals, and one that will obviously not be met by 2015” she added.

“Try to imagine yourself without toilets – no toilet in your workplace and no toilet at home. Imagine you had to relieve yourself in the streets of your city or town. Imagine yourself trying to find every single day a quiet, secluded spot. Imagine the insecurity and indignity of the situation – especially if you are a woman. And suppose you could smell excrement, because your city had no money to build and maintain a proper sewer system,” Ms de Albuquerque asked. “This is the situation billions of people face today – especially those who are most marginalized.”

Micah Challenge Australia  is currently campaigning in relation to the MDG target to 'Halve the proportion of people without access to improved sanitation by 2015'.
Visit the Micah Challenge website to see how you can participate in the campaign.

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