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Symbolism and stories at Candlelight events

Tue 20 May 2008 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Karen Ritchie of the Cartier Bereavement Trust attaches a name card Symbolism and personal stories were strongly featured at Candlelight Memorial services held around the country on Sunday night. In Christchurch NZAF Poster Boy Josh Chapman stood before the almost 100 people who had gathered to mark the deaths of people with HIV and to renew their commitment to fighting the spread of the virus. Chapman, whose address can be accessed on the link below, says it was the first time he had publicly told an audience the deeply personal story of his father's HIV-related death. "I was nervous but felt very welcomed," he says. "I felt a lot of love and respect for each other... we were all there for the same thing." He describes the mood as sombre and deeply emotional. Christchurch Candlelight organiser Lara Jones says gay men were in the majority, and she was personally impressed by the speakers who included Chapman, a young Zimbabwean and MP Tim Barnett who sketched the history of the HIV epidemic and urged continued work against it. "The event lasted just under an hour," Jones says, "everyone lit candles, there was a calling of names of those who have died and a moment of silence and remembrance." Over 200 people gathered in Auckland's St Matthews in the City church, the traditional venue for the annual commemoration. Quilt project convener and MC for the evening, Michael Bancroft, read aloud a list of nineteen names of people, mostly gay men, who were amongst the hundreds who have died due to HIV, then put their names in context highlighting the contributions they had made to their communities and the fight against HIV. Glen Wilkin-Holland was amongst the speakers, recounting his deeply personal story of the death of his partner, Fraser Moreton, earlier this year. Reflective songs were sung by the Gay And Lesbian Singers, and spirits raised by a troupe of African singers and dancers. Midway through the service everyone present lit candles of remembrance and and attached the names of people lost to HIV to a small pohutukawa tree. The tree will be planted next to the Circle of Friends HIV memorial in Western Springs park. Candlelight events were also held in Hamilton, Wellington (where MPs Marian Hobbs, Annette King and Maryan Street attended), Dunedin and Invercargill, though spokespeople could not be contacted for comment at the time this story was prepared. [Editor's note: Yesterday's version of this story stated that Josh himself had contracted HIV. This is not the case and apologises for the error.]    

Credit: Daily News Staff

First published: Tuesday, 20th May 2008 - 11:28am

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