Sunday, September 03, 2006

In This House of Breda

Flying in the face of, well, um, everything, a Dutch bishop has advocated condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS while on a trip to Uganda.
According to [Bishop Tiny Muskens of Breda] - it is permissible to opt for the lesser evil of condom use to prevent the greater evil of AIDS. One in ten Ugandans is currently infected with the HIV virus.

The bishop is in the African country at the invitation of the organisation, Stop Aids Now. Director Sjoera Dikkers explains from the Ugandan capital Kampala that the controversial message from the bishop has been well received.

"Certainly by organisations who work in the field with people who are infected or could easily become infected. They feel buoyed up by a Dutch bishop who finally comes and says, 'ok, what you are doing is good work.'"...

Church leaders, to a large degree, support the position of the Vatican. But in practice there's still some room for manoeuvre, remarks Dikkers. She thinks Bishop Muskens is making good use of that room.

Apart from the Catholic ban on contraceptives - the use of condoms is also controversial in Uganda. It is a country where macho culture is dominant and that means no condoms. But then even given that, the message from Bishop Muskens is important, according to Dikkers.

"It is not good when you don't tell the people here that you get HIV through unsafe sex and that you can avoid that by using a condom. That is, of course, nonsense."

Hmm. Everyone together on the count of three -- one... two... three: LOPEZTRUJILLO! That should be an interesting response.

In other close encounters of the outspoken kind, a Swiss bishop, Kurt Koch of Basel, has decried opposition to the building of minarets in the country.

In an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Koch was reacting to the strong opposition among some Swiss to plans for minarets at a number of locations in the country.

He said the conflict behind the debate was much more important than the minarets themselves and fears had to be discussed.

"A minaret for them [Muslims] is of course a sign of identity. If you said to a Christian church that it could build a church but without a tower, then you would also ask the question what the problem was."

But Koch also made the point that Muslim countries should also respect religious freedom for Christians.

"The Bishop of Arabia, for example, is not allowed in certain countries to celebrate the Eucharist."

He said that the background to the minaret dispute was a big fear of things that were foreign.

"Islam is still little integrated into our society... The problem is really not the strength of Islam but the weakness of Christianity."

"If we were to go back to our roots and stand behind our convictions we could approach other religions more openly," he said. This, he added, was a big challenge.

Koch said it was difficult to judge whether fears were justified but good information could help to overcome them. He also noted there was a danger that Islam could be equated with terror.

"Islam is something quite different from the terrorist aberrations that exist."

Just thought you'd all like to know.