By ACNS staff
The Revd Terrie Robinson said today that churches across the Anglican Communion are uniquely placed to challenge and change how society thinks about gender-based violence.
Speaking at the start of the annual Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence the Anglican Communion Networks Co-ordinator and Women’s Desk Officer explained that every day millions of adults and children, both rich and poor, experience violence against based on their gender.
“Most are women and girls but men and boys can also be victims of gender-based violence, and stigma is attached to them by society every bit as much as it is to women,” said Mrs Robinson. “As well as the pain of violated bodies, minds and souls, there is the additional pain of the loneliness and isolation that is so often placed as an extra burden upon victims and survivors of gender violence. Society looks away or, even worse, scorns and blames those who have been abused.”
“The Sixteen Days give extra impetus for civil society, for governments, for churches and individuals to take seriously the work needed to eliminate violence. Churches are uniquely placed in our communities to speak out, challenge and change our own and others’ attitudes and behaviours. As members of Christ’s body it’s also inherent in us that we care for the survivors of gender-based violence, helping to restore them to health and to community and letting them know of their infinite God-given worth.”
Mrs Robinson applauded the heightened profile of the response to gender violence in the Anglican Communion. “In January this year the Primates, meeting in Dublin, Ireland, took time to reflect on gender violence in their own contexts. They committed themselves to action and wrote a letter to the churches [also in French and Spanish] setting out the many ways in which the churches can work towards restoring right relationship between men and women, boys and girls.”
“In Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, where sexual violence as a weapon of terror has continued long after the signing of peace treaties, the Anglican churches have gathered other church and faith leaders, government representatives, non-governmental agencies and United Nations bodies to explore how they can work together to bring an end to violence and abuse against women and girls.
“The Archbishop and bishops of Southern Africa have publicly signed the White Ribbon pledge* as a way of articulating their commitment and lifting up their churches’ gender work. A diocese in the Church of North India has run workshops for schoolgirls to give them a basic understanding of laws relating to the protection of women and an understanding of the process of law. The girls have asked if the workshops can be run for boys too. In many parts of the Communion, and among ecumenical bodies, pastoral guidelines have been produced so that priests and lay workers know better how to respond to those caught up in domestic violence. Biblical texts are being revisited and expounded afresh in this generation to challenge the status quo and lift up the truth that women and men are created equal.
“These are just some of the ways in which the churches are engaging with the different issues surrounding gender violence. There is still so much to do, still so much potential untapped, but at least we’re on the journey and now is the time to step up the pace.”
The Sixteen Days begin each year on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. Partway through, on 1 December, World AIDS Day can be seen as a reminder that HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls are twin pandemics and cannot be approached entirely as separate phenomena.
Sixteen Actions for the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
1. Sign the ‘We Will Speak Out’ pledge on-line at www.wewillspeakout.org. We Will Speak Out is a coalition of Christian churches and agencies committed to speaking out against sexual violence, challenging attitudes that perpetuate it, and caring for its victims and survivors.
2. At 16.00 each day, pause to take time out, to be still, to reflect and to pray, using the World Council of Churches ‘16 Prayers for the 16 Days’.
3. If you are a man or a boy, join the White Ribbon campaign and wear a white ribbon. If you are a woman or a girl, join the White Ribbon campaign and wear a white ribbon in solidarity with the men and boys who are making a stand.
4. Visit the ‘Restored’ website at http://www.restoredrelationships.org to learn more about domestic violence and see how churches can respond. Restored is an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women.
5. Read Matthew 19.13-15 to your children and tell them that hurting someone because they are a boy or a girl is never acceptable.
6. Ask your church or your diocese to read the International Anglican Family Network’s Oceania Consultation report and action plan to tackle abuse, and to consider adapting and using it in your local context.
7. Find out the dos and don’ts in responding to domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Handbook: For clergy and pastoral workers published by the Joint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Programme in South Australia describes the forms and patterns of domestic violence, explodes some of the myths, and offers guidelines for clergy and lay workers in responding to domestic violence.
8. Look at the resources for contextual Bible Study developed by the Ujamaa Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and used in the Tamar Campaign. The aim of the Tamar Campaign is to demonstrate God’s compassion and justice to women and children who suffer indignity and violation through sexual and domestic abuse. It looks at redemptive masculinities and the links between HIV and gender-based violence.
9. Use the ‘Prayers and Meditations’ prepared for the Sixteen Days by women of The Episcopal church.
10. ‘Say NO – UNiTE' at http://saynotoviolence.org/16days2011 offers ‘16 actions for 16 days’ that you can take to protest and prevent violence against women and girls. Pick as many as you like, or take the action of the day.
11. Team up with other church or faith traditions and plan something together. See ‘Restoring Dignity: A Toolkit for Religious Communities to End Violence Against Women’, developed by Religions for Peace.
12. Read ‘Righting Her-Story: Caribbean Women Encounter the Bible Story’ published by the World Communion of Reformed Churches. This is a Bible study book on women which provides refreshing ways to read the Bible, enabling women and men to rediscover its richness and its ability to help them reflect theologically on their faith and experience. The book can be purchased or downloaded from the WCRC website at www.wcrc.ch.
13. Download ‘Created in God’s Image: From Hegemony to Partnership’, a church manual on men as partners that promotes positive masculinities from the stand point of the Christian faith – published by the World Council of Churches and the WCRC.
14. Download and display the posters at the ‘One Man Can Campaign’. One Man Can supports men and boys in taking action to end domestic and sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, and in promoting healthy, equitable relationships that men and women can enjoy - passionately, respectfully and fully. The campaign website has a wealth of resources including workshop activities and action sheets and a section for religious leaders.
15. Every person has a value and dignity which comes directly from their creation in God’s own image. Find out how the Anglican Communion Safe Church Consultation is promoting and supporting the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people involved in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.
16. Explore the Resources section of the website of the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) and read their newsletters for more ideas. The International Anglican Youth Network (IAYN) has also developed practical resources to help in ending violence against young women and girls.
Notes to Editors