Churches called to back International Day Against Violence Against Women

By staff writers
November 25, 2006

Churches called to back International Day Against Violence Against Women

-25/11/06

Combatting the alarming increase in violence against women around the world must become a priority concern for the churches.

That's the message that was delivered to members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) on the eve of the International Day Against Violence Against Women, 25 November 2006, by WARC's Office for Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership.

"The church cannot embrace justice, peace and love if it fails to speak out, condemning violence against women as a sin," said Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary for the office. "The time is now for churches to confess their complicity and demonstrate their commitment to end violence against women."

She continued: "This must not be seen as a women's desk project but a mandate that permeates every sector of the church. Men in particular need to be educated and prepared for their crucial role in this campaign. Churches must speak out against this - from their pulpits, in study groups, through liturgies and music and must also work in partnership with the wider community."

Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth called on the churches to look at the root causes of violence as they work to build communities of resistance against the culture of domination and control, transforming hierarchies of power into relationships of partnership and solidarity.

The International Day Against Violence Against Women will introduce 16 days of activism - raising awareness on violence against women and advocating for policies, legislation, mechanisms, education, protection and support for survivors.

It culminates on 10 December 2006, International Human Rights Day, with its emphasis on the fact that violence against women is a violation of human rights.

In October 2006 the United Nations reported "alarming levels" of violence against women and children in Darfur. Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth said that hundreds of thousands of women are subject to rape, humiliation and torture in times of war or conflict.

"Throughout history rape has been used as a routine weapon of war and the woman's body as a battlefield and target for acts of vengeance and punishment. Despite the bitter reality, these crimes remain the least noted and the culprits are hardly sought after, much less condemned."

Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth said the church remains complicit on the issue of violence against women. "It is sad but true that the church is not always a safe place for women. Churches are still slow to address gender injustices and often are oblivious to many forms of violence against women even within the communities they serve."

In addition, churches have sometimes aided in the perpetration of psychological, emotional and spiritual violence by blaming victims of violence for being responsible for the acts, she said.

"While some churches advise such victims to be good wives and avoid the husband?s fury, others isolate them by ostracising them or suspending them from the church at a time when they most need support and accompaniment," Sheerattan-Bisnauth said.

Violence against women cuts across class, race, ethnicity, culture and religion and in many cases is so commonplace that it receives little attention. Sheerattan-Bisnauth points to two key issues concerning this violence against women: There is an obsession in today's world with power and domination and their companions, anger and hatred. Males believe they must control women to maintain a sense of self-esteem therefore they believe, for example, that "wives must be ruled." In many societies women are seen as the property of men and therefore what men do with their property is deemed to be their business. This thinking is often condoned and promoted by major world religions.

In addition Sheerattan-Bisnauth said that violence against women in domestic relationships with men is so prevalent in society today that it receives little attention. "Psychological and emotional abuse with deep pain and suffering can easily become a norm in a relationship without recognition of the problem and with little hope for healing and peace."

Churches called to back International Day Against Violence Against Women

-25/11/06

Combatting the alarming increase in violence against women around the world must become a priority concern for the churches.

That's the message that was delivered to members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) on the eve of the International Day Against Violence Against Women, 25 November 2006, by WARC's Office for Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership.

"The church cannot embrace justice, peace and love if it fails to speak out, condemning violence against women as a sin," said Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary for the office. "The time is now for churches to confess their complicity and demonstrate their commitment to end violence against women."

She continued: "This must not be seen as a women's desk project but a mandate that permeates every sector of the church. Men in particular need to be educated and prepared for their crucial role in this campaign. Churches must speak out against this - from their pulpits, in study groups, through liturgies and music and must also work in partnership with the wider community."

Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth called on the churches to look at the root causes of violence as they work to build communities of resistance against the culture of domination and control, transforming hierarchies of power into relationships of partnership and solidarity.

The International Day Against Violence Against Women will introduce 16 days of activism - raising awareness on violence against women and advocating for policies, legislation, mechanisms, education, protection and support for survivors.

It culminates on 10 December 2006, International Human Rights Day, with its emphasis on the fact that violence against women is a violation of human rights.

In October 2006 the United Nations reported "alarming levels" of violence against women and children in Darfur. Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth said that hundreds of thousands of women are subject to rape, humiliation and torture in times of war or conflict.

"Throughout history rape has been used as a routine weapon of war and the woman's body as a battlefield and target for acts of vengeance and punishment. Despite the bitter reality, these crimes remain the least noted and the culprits are hardly sought after, much less condemned."

Ms Sheerattan-Bisnauth said the church remains complicit on the issue of violence against women. "It is sad but true that the church is not always a safe place for women. Churches are still slow to address gender injustices and often are oblivious to many forms of violence against women even within the communities they serve."

In addition, churches have sometimes aided in the perpetration of psychological, emotional and spiritual violence by blaming victims of violence for being responsible for the acts, she said.

"While some churches advise such victims to be good wives and avoid the husband?s fury, others isolate them by ostracising them or suspending them from the church at a time when they most need support and accompaniment," Sheerattan-Bisnauth said.

Violence against women cuts across class, race, ethnicity, culture and religion and in many cases is so commonplace that it receives little attention. Sheerattan-Bisnauth points to two key issues concerning this violence against women: There is an obsession in today's world with power and domination and their companions, anger and hatred. Males believe they must control women to maintain a sense of self-esteem therefore they believe, for example, that "wives must be ruled." In many societies women are seen as the property of men and therefore what men do with their property is deemed to be their business. This thinking is often condoned and promoted by major world religions.

In addition Sheerattan-Bisnauth said that violence against women in domestic relationships with men is so prevalent in society today that it receives little attention. "Psychological and emotional abuse with deep pain and suffering can easily become a norm in a relationship without recognition of the problem and with little hope for healing and peace."

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