Churches across the Anglican Communion have been told they are uniquely placed to change how society thinks about gender-based violence.
Speaking at the start of the annual Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, the Rev Terrie Robinson, 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 Ms 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,” she added.
“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,” she said.
Ms 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,” Ms Robinson concluded.
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.
With acknowledgments to the Anglican Communion News Service