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ENTREVISTA REALIZADA POR LA REVISTA LUTHERAN WORLD INFORMATION (GINEBRA – SUIZA) AL PASTOR LISANDRO ORLOV

 

Aplicando una mirada retrospectiva a los últimos 20 años de compromiso con el tema del VIH ¿cuáles son los grandes desarrollos que han ocurrido desde entonces, particularmente en el campo de las iglesias?

Cuando en 1986 comenzamos a acompañar personas que vivían con vih y con sida no teníamos modelos ni referentes a seguir o copiar. Con miedos diversos comenzamos a caminar corriendo el riesgo de que nuestra misma comunidad no comprendiera la tarea que comenzábamos. Creo que el logro más importante que se ha alcanzado en estos 20 años es la conversión de la comunión luterana en América Latina al encarar su acción pastoral como un tema de justicia y derechos humanos. Esta acción se ubico desde un comienzo en la perspectiva y en la experiencia que habíamos acumulado durante la dictadura miliar que termino en 1983. De la misma forma que habíamos reclamado el respeto de los derechos humanos en aquellos años trágicos, asumimos esta tarea como una continuidad de aquella tarea. También el prejuicio y el estigma hacia desaparecer y no respetar la condición de ciudadanos a muchas personas que estaban afectadas por la epidemia.  La comunión luterana aprendió que el tema sida es un tema relacionado con la dignidad humana y ese es el elemento propio que le agregamos en nuestra mirada de la epidemia. No son los datos médicos ni las estadísticas que nos mueven a la acción sino el promover el pleno ejercicio de los derechos humanos y el amplio reconocimiento de las dignidades en la diversidad que nos mueve  la Comunión, la Conversión y la Asistencia.


2) En esta misma mirada retrospectiva, ¿cuáles percibe han sido los efectos de su trabajo en iglesia y sociedad?

En estos 20 años de compromiso con las personas que viven con vih y sida la comunión luterana ha descubierto los valores de su propia identidad. Hemos sentido la fuerza revolucionaria del significado de anunciar, predicar y vivir la justificación por la fe en el contexto de esta epidemia. Anunciar a las personas que viven o están afectados por el vih que su salvación viene solo de Cristo, que solo su fe es la condición de pertenencia a la comunidad de fe y que su dignidad creada a imagen y semejanza de nuestro común creador no se la pueden quitar nada ni nadie.  La comunión luterana ha descubierto su voz alternativa y su identidad confesional en América Latina a través de su diálogo con las personas y grupos en situación de vulnerabilidad al vih y asumió el compromiso de ser una comunidad sin paredes ni excluidos, incondicionalmente abiertas a todos y todas.

La continuidad del trabajo ha permitido transformar a la comunión luterana como un referente alternativo en el panorama religioso de América Latina. Las diversas redes de personas que viven con vih y sida ya pueden diferenciar mensajes y actitudes y ya no colocan a todas las iglesias en un grupo único. Muchos y muchas ya saben que existe una comunión de iglesias que tiene algo diferente para decir tanto en el área de la prevención como del acompañamiento, tanto en el campo de los derechos humanos como en el diálogo abierto e inclusivo.

La comunión luterana ha profundizado su mensaje específico y su identidad confesional. Hemos aprendido a trabajar en redes tanto entre los diversos proyectos de las iglesias de la región en vih como un trabajo en red con los organismos gubernamentales y con la sociedad civil. Hemos aprendido que no queremos trabajar aislados ni solos. Hemos aprendido a estar presente en el escenario donde ser toman las decisiones políticas. Tenemos conciencia que todas nuestras acciones de servicio, diaconía y pastorales tienen que culminar con propuestas de políticas públicas y la importancia de la incidencia en esas políticas.


3) ¿Que significa este reconocimiento para Ud.?

Es significativo que este reconocimiento realizado por el Secretario de Culto del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Embajador Guillermo Oliveri, se haya realizado en el “Día de la Libertad de Conciencia y de la Libertad Religiosa en la República Argentina”  Nuestro trabajo en vih y sida ya no se lo considera una tarea restringida y propia del  área de la salud sino como un aporte en el campo de la libertad de conciencia y la libertad religiosa. Allí radica la mayor originalidad y significado de este reconocimiento. El eje de trabajo y la construcción de un mensaje desde la identidad luterana en lo relacionado al estigma y la discriminación, como el mayor problema al que debe responder una acción pastoral encarado por la Iglesia,  ha sido percibido tanto por la sociedad como por el gobierno. Esta tarea es considerada como un aporte a la profundización del sistema democrático y al respeto del pluralismo en todas sus facetas. Considero que esta ubicación ideológica del aporte realizado por la Pastoral Ecuménica en VIH y SIDA es uno de los mayores logros. Es allí donde queremos que nos vea la misma iglesia y la sociedad.

Por otro lado considero que este reconocimiento es también un reconocimiento a la comunión luterana que desde un comienzo apoyo una iniciativa innovadora y provocativa. Es un reconocimiento a un compromiso en el proceso de establecer COMUNIÓN con personas y grupos estigmatizados antes y durante la epidemia. Es un reconocimiento a la voluntad de CONVERSIÓN de la comunión luterana al asumir el riesgo de un diálogo honesto y humano hacia afuera y que ese diálogo tenga consecuencias hacia su misma forma de ser, pensar y actuar. Es este también un reconocimiento de la voluntad de ASISTIR incondicionalmente a toda persona en su acceso a la información, la prevención, el cuidado, la asistencia plena.


4) ¿Cuáles son los desafíos más importantes en el campo de la lucha contra la pandemia del VIH?

Los desafíos inmediatos de la comunión luterana en América Latina son el lograr una creativa relectura bíblica, confesional y una reformulación de su acción pastoral en el contexto del vih y del sida. Esta epidemia nos muestra que nuestras dificultades no se relacionan con el virus, ni con las formas en que la enfermedad se transmite, ni con las formas de prevención. El vih y sida se ha revelado como una realidad que tiene profundas implicancias en la hermenéutica bíblica y confesional. Es un desafío que nos convoca a ser una voz alternativa en un contexto de terribles integrismo y fundamentalismos religiosos que amenaza la libertad de conciencia y desconoce el respeto de las diversidades. La comunión luterana tiene una oportunidad histórica de ser la voz profética que promueve una convivencia fraterna y armoniosa de las diversidades reconciliadas y en la promoción del ejercicio pleno de los derechos de ciudadanía para todos y todas.

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Combating Stigma Is a Contribution to Freedom of Conscience and Religion Argentine Government Honors Lutheran Pastor for Dedication to HIV and AIDS Work

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina/GENEVA, 30 November 2007 (LWI) – Argentine Lutheran pastor Lisandro Orlov has received a government recognition for his dedicated service to people affected by HIV and AIDS.

Ambassador Guillermo Oliveri, secretary for religious affairs in Argentina's foreign ministry, paid tribute to the work of the 65-year-old pastor of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church
(IELU) on 22 November in the context of events marking the 26th anniversary of the "Day of Freedom of Conscience and Religious Freedom in the Republic of Argentina."

For Orlov, regional coordinator of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) global campaign against HIV and AIDS, the recognition proves that IELU's commitment to AIDS work is no longer seen as a task "destined for the health authorities. It is, in fact, a contribution to freedom of conscience and religion." In an interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI) the theologian emphasized that "both society and government have noticed that we are anxious to develop a message that counters stigma and discrimination."

"Our ecumenical pastoral activity is understood in the sense of deepening the democratic system and respect for pluralism in all its forms," said Orlov, who since 1986 is coordinator of an IELU ecumenical solidarity initiative for people affected by HIV and AIDS. He currently heads a center that can accommodate for short periods up to 15 people affected by HIV and AIDS. It provides care for those in crisis situations, offering them pastoral, psychological, medical and legal advice, and assisting them to find a new approach to life.

The Argentine government recognition is, according to Orlov, also a sign of appreciation for the LWF global AIDS campaign and action plan, "Compassion, Conversion, Care: Responding as Churches to the HIV/AIDS Pandemic." He sees it as a tribute to the Lutheran communion, which has supported this initiative from the beginning. It is recognition also of the duty to create COMMUNION with individuals and groups stigmatized by the epidemic even before it became widespread. The award translates into recognition of the will manifested by the Lutheran communion to achieve CONVERSION by taking the risk in an honest and humane dialogue embracing the consequences of the inner transformation in terms of the true self, thought and action. It is, finally, also about recognizing the resolve to ASSIST every person unconditionally when it comes to access to information, prevention and care.

Civil society groups and some governments in the region are indeed showing a growing interest in the work of the Lutheran churches in Latin America, according to Rev. Martin Junge, LWF Department for Mission and Development (DMD) area secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean. Through regular work in the fight against the epidemic, the churches have developed their own theological and pastoral profile, he says. Only last year the LWF member church in Costa Rica was invited to participate in the country coordination mechanism (CCM) on HIV and AIDS.

According to Junge, the honor to Orlov demonstrates not only recognition of the churches’ profile and orientation in AIDS work but also emphasis on integration into national strategies. "Thus an important aim of the worldwide LWF AIDS campaign seems to be coming to fruition - that the churches should not be a stumbling block but active partners in combating HIV." (560 words)

The full text of the LWI interview with Rev. Lisandro Orlov follows:

LWI: Where do you see crucial developments in the area of HIV and AIDS in the last 20 years, particularly regarding the churches?

Rev. Lisandro Orlov: When we started to accompany people affected by HIV and AIDS in 1986, we had neither role models nor points of reference. We went down this road with considerable anxiety and took the risk that our own communion and congregations would not understand what we were setting in motion. I think that the most important achievement over the past
20 years has been the conversion of the Lutheran communion in Latin America, which understands its pastoral work as a matter of justice and human rights.

From the start this work has been guided by our position and experiences during the years of the military dictatorship in Argentina, which ended in 1983. Just as we appealed for human rights during those tragic years, so have we now tackled this new challenge as a continuation. Because of prejudices and stigmatization, people affected by the epidemic disappear in a similar way and their civil rights are also not respected.

The Lutheran communion has learned that the issue of HIV and AIDS is linked with human dignity and that is our specific approach in fighting the epidemic. It is not the medical data or statistics that spur us into action - we want to promote the full enjoyment of human rights and the comprehensive recognition of dignity in diversity.

Looking back, where do you see the impact of your work on church and society?

In these 20 years of commitment to people with HIV and AIDS, the Lutheran communion has discovered the values of its own identity. We perceived the revolutionary force that lies in the promise of justification by faith in the context of the epidemic, and also the strength of a life rooted in this justification. It is all about words of comfort to people living with HIV, or affected by it, that their salvation comes from Christ alone and that their faith alone is the foundation of their belonging to the communion of believers. They must understand that nothing or no one can impair their God-given dignity.

The Lutheran communion has discovered its alternative voice and confessional identity in Latin America in dialogue with vulnerable people and groups, thus accepting to be a communion without walls and exclusion, unconditional and open to all.

The sustained work in the field of HIV and AIDS has enabled the Lutheran communion to become an alternative on the religious scene in Latin America. The different networks of people with HIV and AIDS can now distinguish between the different messages and no longer see all churches as a single, closed group. Many of them know by now that there is a community of churches that has something else to say—with regard to both prevention and pastoral care, as well as with human rights and open and inclusive dialogue.

The Lutheran communion has deepened its own message and confessional identity. We have learned how to work in networks on different church projects in the region, and likewise with government bodies and civil society. We have also learned to be present at places where political decisions are taken, becoming aware that all our actions in the field of pastoral and diaconal work must ultimately flow into concrete proposals for legislation. We have realized the importance of advocacy for this kind of process.

What does this award from the Argentine government mean to you?

It is significant that Ambassador Guillermo Oliveri, state secretary for religious affairs in the foreign affairs ministry conferred this honor on the "Day of Freedom of Conscience and Religious Freedom in the Republic of Argentina." Our work in the field of HIV and AIDS is no longer seen as a task to be assigned to the health authorities. It is, in fact, a contribution to the freedom of conscience and religion. That is where the originality and significance of this award lies.

Both society and government have noticed that we are anxious to develop a message that counters stigma and discrimination, both of which are major problems that need to be taken up by the church in its pastoral work. Our ecumenical pastoral activity
(Pastoral Ecuménica) is understood in the sense of deepening the democratic system and respect for pluralism in all its forms. In my view, this ideological positioning of the project and its contribution is one of the most important achievements.

On the other hand, I feel that this honor is also an acknowledgment of the Lutheran communion, which from the start has supported this innovative yet controversial initiative. It is recognition of the duty to create COMMUNION with individuals and groups stigmatized by the epidemic even before it became widespread. It amounts to recognizing the express will of the Lutheran communion to achieve CONVERSION by taking the risk in an honest and humane dialogue, embracing consequences for its inner transformation in the true self, thought and action. It is, finally, also about recognition of the resolve to ASSIST every person unconditionally when it comes to access to information, prevention and care.

Where do you see the greatest challenges in the fight against HIV and AIDS?

The immediate challenge fort the Lutheran communion is the creative renewed reading of the Bible, and also rediscovering its confessional basis and the subsequent reformulation of its pastoral work in the context of HIV and AIDS. This epidemic makes it clear that our difficulties are not connected with the virus, ways of becoming infected or types of prevention. HIV and AIDS manifest themselves as a reality that has a profound impact on biblical and confessional hermeneutics. We are challenged to become an alternative voice in a context of religious fundamentalism that is a threat to freedom of conscience and denies respect for diversity. The Lutheran communion has the historic opportunity to be a prophetic voice, fostering a peaceful co-existence in reconciled diversity, like brothers and sisters, and as the full affirmation of the civil rights for all people. (1,007 words)

*Rev. Lisandro Orlov is director of the HIV and AIDS project "Pastoral Ecuménica VIH y SIDA" in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

* * *
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund,
Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of nearly 66.7 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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