Rick Warren: Churches Must Join the AIDS Fight

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WASHINGTON -- Christian leaders from around the world gathered at a special summit of the International AIDS Conference this week to discuss the role of the church in fighting this deadly disease.

Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren co-hosted the event, calling on the church to help promote global health.

"Nothing comes close to the hundreds of millions of volunteers in the local church," Warren said.

The Saddleback Church "Peace Plan" empowers local churches to care for AIDS patients and educate the next generation.

Warren's wife, Kay, told CBN News one of the most powerful steps any church can take is to remove the stigma associated with the disease.

"We look to the scripture. We look at Mark 1:40-42 where Jesus met a leper. He had the opportunity to ask him, 'How did you get sick?' But He didn't," she explained. "The Bible just says that He was filled with compassion. He reached out, He touched the man, and He healed him."

More than 34 million people worldwide suffer from HIV or AIDS. Most live in African nations and other developing countries.

Rev. Christo Greyling, from the Netherlands, was diagnosed with HIV 25 years ago. He trains Christian leaders around the world on how to minister to people living with the disease.

"As the church we sometimes make HIV a moral issue, and it's not a moral issue, it's a disease," he told CBN News." It's a justice issue."

"And as the church, we must be the ones who cannot work with guilty and not guilty," he said. "We cannot work with innocent and guilty. We are all broken people."

Other leading voices in the fight against AIDS testified that these efforts are making progress.

Michael Gerson is a former policy adviser to President George W. Bush. In 2002, he was in the Oval Office when the president decided to pursue the emergency plan for AIDS relief -- known as PEPFAR.

"Since leaving government, I've been involved in trying to encourage Americans, particularly people in the church to understand the importance of America's efforts to fight AIDS around the world," Gerson said.

"This is something I think fits the Christian world view very closely," he continued. "It represents a belief of human rights and dignity."

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also addressed faith leaders at the summit.

In video messages, they encouraged the church to continue its work in helping save lives around the world.

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