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Empowered by Faith: Collaborating with Faith-based Organizations to Confront HIV/AIDS

June 2008 — Empowered by Faith presents some of FHI 360's positive experiences working with faith-based organizations to confront HIV/AIDS. By telling the stories of collaboration between FHI 360 staff, faith leaders, community volunteers, and those living with HIV/AIDS, it illustrates how nongovernmental organizations and faith-based groups, on common ground, can address their critically important shared goals: improving lives and making the world a better place. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has written a short foreword for the report, says it so well when he writes, "These stories can serve as a guide to what is possible through . . .  collaboration even in the face of daunting challenges. Faith in God encourages broad cooperation in response to illness."

Author William L. Sachs is an Episcopal priest who has written four books and taught theology at several universities, most notably Yale University and the University of Richmond. He currently works with St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va., to build programs facilitating Christian-Muslim understanding in the United States and abroad. As a person of faith himself, Sachs brought a unique perspective to his interviews with faith leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu traditions, which are featured throughout the report. Traveling to seven countries on FHI 360's behalf, he met with religious people in countries espousing different faith traditions, cultural contexts and burdens of disease. All collaborate with FHI 360. As his travels came to a close, it became clear that whether in Guyana or Cambodia, Kenya or Bangladesh, certain themes emerged as the defining characteristics of the work between FHI 360 and faith-based organizations. These characteristics form the basis for his book, with Sachs offering six reasons why he believes faith-based organizations make good partners for nongovernmental organizations addressing HIV/AIDS, followed by four areas in which he believes the strengths of faith-based organizations and FHI 360 seem to best complement each other.

Peter Lamptey, Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus at FHI 360, says working together with local faith-based organizations has enhanced FHI 360's efforts in many ways. "In many places where we work, we've found that faith-based organizations are among those best positioned to help us reach vulnerable populations: They are often an important part of the community and possess great credibility among those we hope to reach. In addition, adherents of faith traditions who live in places where we work — whether Christians, Hindus, Muslims or members of other faiths — have often proven ready participants in our work. They have been eager for information on how to prevent the spread of the epidemic, have willingly accepted training and have often served as reliable volunteers. We are grateful for all they have contributed to our efforts."

Although the report does not cover all of FHI 360's projects involving faith-based groups, it presents a snapshot of some of our best. Countries featured include Guyana, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Rwanda and Namibia.