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United Press International
Bridging the AIDS generation gap
Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI Religion Correspondent
February 19, 2002
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- An elderly clergyman's simple plan to battle the African AIDS pandemic will become a reality, United Press International learned Tuesday.

The Rev. Angelo D'Agostino, a Jesuit priest and psychiatrist, proposed building a "City of Light" where children orphaned by the disease and the elderly will live together. "Alas," he said, "I don't have the funds."

But a fellow man of the cloth came though.

"We'll do it," the Rev. Franklin Graham told UPI in an interview. "We'll start right away."

Graham said he would go to Kenya soon, where D'Agostino runs an orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDS.

He said he would ask Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi to donate land for the project. "If he doesn't, we'll buy it."

Graham is President of the Samaritan's Purse organization that has a five-day International Christian Conference on HIV/AIDS in Washington attended by some 850 church leaders and AIDS specialists from 87 countries. He is the son of Billy Graham, the evangelist.

Calling priest's project "a doable concept and not too big a dream," Graham suggested that it would serve as prototype for similar "cities" elsewhere. AIDS has ravaged young adults, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where 70 percent of all infected patients live, Graham said.

In an interview with UPI, D'Agostino had painted the grim prospect of 25 million orphans roaming the streets of Africa within five or six years, robbing and killing.

"What are you going to do with these out-of-control kids? Shoot them? Lock them up?" the 76-year old Jesuit asked.

He said a simple solution would be that the elderly who lost their own children to the disease bring up their grandchildren in the safe and controlled environment of a city of African huts.

Franklin Graham cited the priest's plan as a prime example of how the Church of Christ can take a lead in fighting the worldwide AIDS crisis of which he said it would soon "wreak havoc with the world's economy, including out own."

According to Graham, President George W. Bush's plan for faith-based initiatives "should apply to the entire world." He said the United Nations and to some extent the United Stages government had "taken God out of society."

In dealing with the AIDS crisis, the U.N and the Washington has not asked the church of the table.

"But we need God in this," Graham said. "Without God, we are not going to succeed."

Graham called education the church's most important task in the fight against AIDS. "We must get the African churches involved."

"There are churches within 500 yards of the brothels along Africa's major truck routes (the principal source of HIV infections)," he said, and suggested the churches must find ways to drive the disease's dangers home to truckers and prostitutes.