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Theology, Human Rights and the HIV Response

Call for Submission of Abstracts


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) is a global network of churches and church-related organizations committed to ecumenical collaboration in advocacy for justice, as a fundamental element of living out our faith. EAA seeks to harness the collective energies and capacities of churches and church-related organizations through long-term (four-year) campaigns on two selected priority issues. EAA’s current priority issues are HIV and AIDS (‘Live the Promise’) and food (‘Food for Life’).

EAA’s ‘Live the Promise’ campaign on HIV and AIDS is grounded in our Christian faith, which calls us to reach out to all of humanity and to create an inclusive community of mutual support and love, enabling every person to “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). As Christians, we are compelled by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14) to act within the world as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), and as such to honour the God-given dignity of every human being (Gen: 1:27). As Christ’s ambassadors, our own voices and actions are the means for living out Jesus’ mission that every person may enjoy abundant life. But the ongoing HIV pandemic continues to present a major obstacle to this vision.

The ‘Live the Promise’ campaign is also undergirded by a strong human rights-based approach. In the context of the response to the epidemic, a human rights-based approach is one that uses human rights to identify:

  • desirable outcomes, e.g. non-discrimination, privacy, education, information, health, employment, social security; and
  • permissible and desirable processes to reach such outcomes (e.g. participatory, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, accountable).

In addition, a rights-based approach to the epidemic seeks to strengthen the capacity of:

  • rights-holders (individuals) to claim their rights in the context of the epidemic, and
  • duty-bearers (both state and non-state) to fulfil their obligations regarding such rights in the response to the epidemic.

The application of a human rights lens to the HIV challenge and response draws a focus to the situation of the most vulnerable, marginalized and excluded individuals and communities. This focus accords very well with the Christian faith-based emphasis on the God-given dignity and value of every human being.

However, fully integrating human rights in churches’ witness for justice has at some times and in some contexts proved difficult, including in relation to the HIV challenge and response. Despite their universal legal normative character, human rights have sometimes and in some places been seen as alien individualistic concepts, lacking coherence with local cultures, community values and even some religious beliefs. Yet faith-based actors engaged in the HIV response around the world have a rich experience of practical engagement in addressing situations of stigma and discrimination from the perspective of the God-given dignity of every human being. In addition to spiritual guidance, they also provide community-wide health, education and social services inspired by a philosophy that seeks equality, dignity and justice for all.

There is therefore a need to promote and facilitate dialogue between theologians and ethicists, human rights experts, and HIV practitioners, including people living with HIV, to explore the intersections between theology and human rights in the context of HIV, to develop a mutual understanding of the common values underlying human rights, to articulate practical consequences for further and deeper collaboration in the struggles against HIV and for human dignity and rights.

In this context, the EAA convened 30 experts in the fields of Christian theology, ethics, human rights and HIV (including people living with HIV) in a face-to-face consultation on Theology, Human Rights and HIV, in November 2011. This core group of experts met behind closed doors in Geneva to reflect on and discuss the complementary and/or different approaches in addressing issues of justice and vulnerability with regard to HIV from Christian theological/ethical and human rights perspectives. In order to ensure a “safe space” for open and frank dialogue between the participants, the consultation was conducted according to the “Chatham House rule”. The output of the consultation was a list of 25 questions that were made public in order to encourage continued dialogue and discussion on the issues.

In follow up to the consultation and with the view to broadening and strengthening reflection and dialogue on practical responses to the HIV pandemic from a faith-based and human rights perspective, the EAA is planning to publish a compilation of reflections on Theology, Human Rights and the HIV Response.

As a first step, we are calling for the submission of abstracts. Abstracts must be no more than 300 words. The deadline for submission is 3 September 2012.

Publication Format

The compilation of reflections is meant to inspire readers to thoughtful reflection and dialogue on the intersection of their Christian faith and human rights in a global context where the ongoing HIV pandemic means daily tragedy and suffering for individuals, families and communities around the world. We aspire to make the final publication a holistic mix of academic articles, experience-based reflections, essays, anecdotes and interactive dialogues in written form. We encourage you to elaborate on your personal experiences, both positive and negative, as well as the challenges and achievements that you have experienced or witnessed in the HIV response, relating to human rights issues.

The possibility of submitting the compilation to an official journal for publication as a Special Edition is being explored, and will be pursued subject to the expressed interest and approval by the authors of the articles.

Guidelines for Submissions

A. Details for composing the submission

  1. Write in an engaging style for a broad readership – religious leaders, key human rights actors, academics, church constituencies, the general public, etc.
  2. Quotations must be accurate and properly referenced. Extended quotations from published sources must come with evidence of copyright permission.
  3. Provide a brief (maximum of three or four words), pertinent, and creative title for the piece.
  4. Please note that the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance retains the right to edit all submissions.

B. Details for layout and presentation

  1. Submissions are to be made electronically in Microsoft Word.
  2. Submissions are to be sent by email to kelsasser@e-alliance.ch
  3. Double or 1.5 spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font is preferred.
  4. Length: The total length should be no more than 300 words.
  5. When alluding to or quoting a biblical text, please provide—in parentheses—the reference directly following the item. e.g. " ...but may have eternal life" (John 3:16). Please indicate the Bible version used (e.g. NRSV, NIV)

C. Timeline

  1. PLEASE MEET THE ASSIGNED DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS – 3 September 2012. If you complete the abstract prior to the deadline, please send it to us promptly. Abstracts are to be submitted by email, attached as a Microsoft Word document.
  2. Please note that, if your abstract is selected, the full article will be required by 31 October 2012, with an online publication target of early 2013.

D. Additional considerations

  1. It may be very useful to consider the Questions for Further Discussion document that was shaped by the Theology, Human Rights and HIV Consultation in November 2011. This document is attached as Annex 1.
  2. Many different human rights are implicated in the HIV pandemic and response. The right to the highest attainable standard of health (Art.12, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) lends the force of legal obligation to governmental initiatives to protect and improve health, and has obvious relevance in strengthening the HIV response. Other recognized human rights obligations and principles relevant to or implicated in the HIV response include:

    • Non-discrimination and equality before the law (Art. 14 and 26, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • The right to marry and found a family (Art.23, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • The right to privacy (Art.17, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • The right to education (Art.13, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
    • The right to work (Art.6 and 7, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
    • Freedom of movement (Art.12, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • Freedom of expression and information (Art.19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • Freedom of assembly and association (Art.22, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
    • Right to benefit from scientific progress (Art.15 para. 1b, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

The total number of words for the abstract should be no more than 300 words. Abstracts should be submitted via email on or before 3 September 2012 to kelsasser@e-alliance.ch