Seven Guiding Principles undergirding The Balm In Gilead’s Partnerships with African and African American faith communities In Addressing Health Disparities

 

global_slide4Principle #1:  Prayer & Faith are Powerful Forces in the Lives of African People throughout the world, including the United States.

Faith is the central organizing concept that drives the mission of The Balm In Gilead. Faith taps into universalities that surpass the differences that divide—-culture, faith and nationhood.

Principle #2:  African, like African American, Faith Communities, Maintain Existing Reservoirs of Strength, Knowledge, Skills & Capacities which Must Be Acknowledged & Cultivated.

With an established social system and network, African, like African American faith communities are unparalleled in their ability to reach the masses of people across gender, age and economic characteristics to address the horrendous crisis of AIDS, diabetes, obesity, infant mortality and other disparities the plague African people worldwide. The Balm In Gilead’s approach to faith community mobilization rests heavily on an empowerment perspective —an approach that emphasizes strengths rather than weaknesses; that, rather than focusing on obstacles and challenges, focuses on opportunities and possibilities.

Principle #3:  Faith Institutions Play a Critical Role in Influencing Social Norms and are Ideally Situated to Impact Health Promotion and Disease Prevention for a Host of Health Disparities in African and African American communities.

Throughout Black communities worldwide, including the USA, churches and mosques are considered by the people to be the most important institutions in the community. In villages and neighborhoods, faith institutions play a vital role in the daily lives of their members and community. Because faith institutions are the life-blood of African and African American communities, they must be viewed as critical catalysts in significantly influencing the beliefs, myths, and understandings that impact both risk and protective factors related to HIV, diabetes, cardiovascular as well a multitude of diseases impacting Black people.

Principle #4:  Faith Leaders are the Most Powerful Voices in African and African American Societies and must be positioned at the Forefront of Strategies Designed to Respond to Health Disparities.

The Balm In Gilead operates from a historically rooted understanding that the loudest voices for Black communities worldwide are ones that come from the pulpit…Drawing upon the historical legacy set by Black religious figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcom X) of the United States; and Desmond Tutu of South Africa, The Balm In Gilead is dedicated to ensuring that its activities are driven and guided by religious leaders.

Principle #5:  People Infected & Affected by HIV/AIDS as well as all diseases should Be Treated with Love, Respect & Compassion.

The efforts of The Balm In Gilead both domestically and internationally have done much to impact communities that previously lacked HIV/AIDS and health awareness in general, which breed stigma and discrimination. Trainings provided to religious leaders and to their churches and mosques offer education related to science as well as ways in which theology may be used to promote health awareness and instill hope to persons affected by the burdens of life-threatening diseases. Once faith leaders are educated and sensitized regarding health disparities, they may impact their peers and congregants in promoting a compassionate response to all people.

Principle #6:  Communities of Faith throughout The African Diaspora have the Necessary Capacities to Draw Upon Their Religious Experiences, Beliefs & Culture in Addressing Health Disparities in an Effective, Respectful Manner.

The Balm In Gilead recognizes and cultivates the existing strengths faith communities serving African people worldwide. An important feature of The Balm In Gilead’s approach to faith community mobilization is that the organization finds, listens and works with partners in a way that works best for them—starting where they are and respecting what they value.

Principle #7:  The Most Effective Response to HIV/AIDS and Other Horrendous Health Challenges in Africa and the United States Demands Intentional Action Characterized by Excellence and Rooted within a Context of Compassion & Love.