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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
200 pages
Mar 2004
Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis

by Donald E. Messer

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Donald E. Messer’s Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence is a mandate to Christians everywhere to do something, however small, in response to the AIDS pandemic currently ravaging the two-thirds world. Every fifteen seconds, a parent dies of AIDS. Every fourteen seconds, a child.

A professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Center for Global Pastoral Ministries at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Donald E. Messer’s grievous account of the dying is practical theology in every aspect. A man who has traveled the world and seen first hand the devastation of AIDS, spoken to pastors who are speechless at the American church’s lack of significant response, Messer’s book is difficult to read in that one cannot emerge from the encounter without wondering what role to play in this global drama.

The author makes an excellent case about the church binding and gagging itself with judgmental attitudes about sexual sin, which has led to the non-response to the AIDS pandemic. He cites many pastors who are, in some cases disagreeing with papal decrees and actively intervening in this crisis. The “how did you get AIDS” question is the greatest problem for the church. If it can get beyond the how and get to the “where does it hurt” question, Messer believes many deaths can be averted.

This powerful book slights the President of the United States on three of five occasions. One essentially indicts his abstinence program for not being able to aid “millions of women and girls from violence, coercion, sexual habits of their partners over which they have no control.” The author fails to acknowledge that no sexual education program will aid women in these difficult situations. A Harvard professor and the nation of Uganda promote mutual monogamy and fidelity and are lauded for it. The author also faults patriarchy for the sins of ignorant men, which is troubling. These shortcomings aside, it is an excellent book, well worth reading. I highly recommend it to pastors, laymen, and missions-minded folk everywhere. -- Suzanne Rae Deshchidn, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

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.