Last Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A. Families were gathering and people were making mental lists of reasons to be thankful, when, as many observed, we should be making lists like that every day.
Today, November 25, has been set aside by the United Nations as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I'm grateful for a day like this, but sickened at the thought that tomorrow violence against women will drop below the public radar while in every culture and in many homes around the world it continues unabated, leaving millions of women and girls at risk and powerless to stop it.
Seems every day we hear another shocking story of violence against women and girls taking place in some corner of the world.
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo rape against women remains an actively employed weapon of war with victims numbering annually around 400,000.
- In India husbands and in-laws violently abuse wives for not being submissive enough, not producing sons, or when her family can't come up with the latest dowry demands. Recently a young Indian wife was beheaded by her mother-in-law and another relative for refusing to prostitute herself.
- In both India and China, female infanticide is rampant, causing gender ratios to become dangerously out of balance and depriving both countries of one of their most precious natural resources―the giftedness and contributions those girls might have made some day.
- Pakistan is notorious for honor killings―around 1,000 annually.
Chalk it up to living a sheltered life (a reason for me to be thankful), but I didn't realize violence against women was a serious local problem until I encountered it among close friends and extended family. I got a chilling sense of just how serious when I was in the dressing room of a women's clinic where a help-line notice was posted with tear-off tags containing a phone number to put in your shoe. Most of the tags had been torn off by previous patients.
But here's the pill that's most difficult to swallow: Violence against women is a problem in the church. Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse and the widespread use of pornography. No matter how sure we may be that "It isn't a problem in our church," the issue needs to be raised. Women need to know the church stands against these abuses and is a safe place for them. They need to know that the church offers safe haven for them if they're in trouble. And perpetrators need to know that, while the church will not tolerate these kinds of abuses from them and will stand between them and their victims and involve law enforcement where crimes are committed, it will not abandon them. The gospel offers hope and redemption for perpetrators too.
A friend told me of efforts she made to sound the alarm in her church, only to be put off by church leaders until a woman showed up for church with obvious signs of abuse. It took that kind of physical evidence to mobilize the church to establish a zero-tolerance policy that moves the victim of abuse to safety and deals with the criminal behavior of the perpetrator.
Another friend went to the church for help because her husband was both verbally and physically abusive, only to be told to work harder to be submissive to him and to be sent back into harms way.
I'm thankful when the calendar sets aside a day for special focus on thanking God for the blessings he lavishes on us. I'm thankful too for a day that jars the global conscience by highlighting the rampant and brutal violence against women and brings this often closeted subject out in the open.
Let us be jarred into action!
Here are two resources to help us become better informed. You can Google to find more:
Justin Holcomb's post, A Hard Look at Violence Against Women
World Pulse's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
So who will raise the issue in the church?
What resources are available to help churches awaken to the problem within and to guide them through establishing a zero-tolerance policy?
Note to FB friends―Please post your replies and resources here, as well as on FB.