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Faith and Works in Africa

June 04, 2005

Re "A U.S. Faith Initiative for Africa," May 29: One uses faith to fight AIDS the same way one uses faith to move mountains. When one is without men, dynamite and machines, one uses faith. And when one does not have science and the medicines produced through its use, then you use faith.

Robert Wilkins

Apple Valley

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I am sorry to see that the black pastors are so excited about their meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The moment they try to plan programs to prevent the onset or the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly within married couples, they must talk about condoms or about programs for clean needles.

The president's policies will not allow the use of government funds for those programs. Anything else will not be adequate methods for prevention of the disease. Caring for orphans is helpful, but that is the wrong end of the real cause.

Mary Ida Gardner

Claremont

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The article stated that "some pastors said it was a matter of national security -- that those orphans were susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists unless they could be exposed to churches such as theirs."

Those children would probably take food wherever they could get it. Is it more important to save them from conversion, or to save them? To lose their souls, or to lose them to war? These orphans need help no matter their faith or the faith of those helping them. Why is it only when their conversion is at stake that we act? If, as U.S. policy, we determine that aid is needed, why does that aid need to be funneled through churches?

We should help the starving children of the world, including those in the U.S., even if they are not at risk of being recruited for war or for conversion.

Sarah Willman Grote

Topanga

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Is no one paying attention to Secretary of State Rice? She is busy pushing the Bush administration's "faith-based initiative" as a U.S. policy in fighting the African AIDS epidemic. Does she think that attempting to spread that "old-time religion" in Africa is the best that we can offer? How about condoms? Oh no, that might interfere with the sanctity of life! The rationale for Rice's meetings is outlined by some black clergy, a prime Bush political target, who evidently feel that national security mandates that Africans be exposed to alternatives to extremist religious recruitment.

Reports said that the effort "marked a new era of engagement by black clergy with U.S. foreign policy."

From a practical point of view, how will this initiative be interpreted by the world?

Our Constitution specifically states that the government may not endorse a particular religion in this country. Will this foreign policy contradict our strong belief in the separation of church and state?

I can also see the use of "faith-based foreign policy" viewed as a "crusade" by some willing to impugn our international motives.

It would be much more helpful if the United States offered prophylactic intervention and medical treatment for combating the tragedy of the African AIDS pandemic.

Rice is taking a very big and dangerous risk with her actions.

Sherri Lipman

Fullerton

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Black pastors' engagement in African affairs is profoundly appreciated, and the Bush administration's effort to combat AIDS on various fronts also must be applauded.

But let's not forget the long history of engagement of white pastors and relief workers in many parts of Africa. As an African, I have witnessed countless white pastors with unselfish determination doggedly fighting leprosy, hunger and AIDS in Africa for years.

My point is, Secretary Rice should also name these great visionaries, including the relief agencies, so their causes could benefit from the Bush administration's largesse.

Dan Gizaw

Tustin

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