A flash mob erupted in the cafeteria at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, on 14 February 2013, as part of the One Billion Rising initiative.
At 12.30pm people scattered throughout the lunch crowd suddenly left their tables and broke into dance. Twenty dancers, wearing bright pink and purple, performed to a song condemning violence against women.
The lyrics of 'Break the Chain', written by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, call attention to the fact that one billion of the world’s three billion women and girls will be raped or attacked in their lifetime. The song ends with a stirring call for people to rise up and stop the violence.
Similar dance events were held in countries from Australia to Lebanon as part of the One Billion Rising campaign created by V-Day, a global activist movement that promotes creative events to increase awareness about violence against women and to re-energize anti-violence organisations.
The event at the Ecumenical Centre, which is home to global church organisations and non-governmental organisations, was organised by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
Dora Arce-Valentín who heads WCRC’s Gender Justice Programme explains that the intent was to raise awareness of the urgent need for men and women to work together to change attitudes that contribute to rape, abuse and assault of women and girls.
“Unleashing a flash mob in the cafeteria creates excitement and catches attention,” says the Cuban pastor. “It’s a great way to raise awareness of this urgent and dramatic situation.”
Flash mobs erupt with no warning in public places. Performers emerge suddenly from a crowd to sing or dance then disappear as soon as the performance ends.
Aiko Sumichan, a youth intern from Indonesia, gathered dancers from organisations including the World YWCA, World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, COHRED and World Student Christian Federation.
“Taking over the cafeteria and filling it with the sounds of protest and power is a wonderful way of giving momentum to the movement to stop the violence,” Sumichan says. “And besides it was a lot of fun. People tell me there’s never been anything like this here before.”
The World Council of Churches (WCC), also based at the Ecumenical Centre, has a history of partnering with other organisations to end violence against women.
For example, the WCC, the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and the World YWCA published a Bible study series, 'Cries of Anguish, Stories of Hope', during Lent 2010. They are available at http://women.overcomingviolence.org.
This year, at the UN Commission on the Status of Women 57th Session, the WCC and the WSCF will jointly present the book When Pastors Prey, a co-publication on sexual abuse of women by clergy within the church.
“The WCC has always condemned violence against women as a sin that can no longer be condoned. This joint creative dancing strike in the ecumenical cafeteria as part of the global strike was one of the highlights of our work together against the dehumanisation and commodification of women’s bodies!,” said Dr Fulata Lusungu Moyo, WCC programme executive for Women in Church and Society.
“Next time we hope that more brothers can also join,” she added. “Let us break these chains of injustice together. As we move towards the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea, we pray together: God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”
* Countering violence against women: faith, hope... and clarity: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18003
* One Billion Rising on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/OneBillionRising