When it comes to violence against women, a discourse grounded on human rights principles, the national laws and the judiciary mechanisms to face this scourge is necessary to address key dimensions of gender-based violence. However, a unified voice from faith communities and a clear engagement from their leaders are also needed to emphasize that women are not only equal before the law, but also made equal in the image of God.

Religious and lay Christian and Muslim leaders who are part of the campaign “Precious in God’s Eyes” affirm that overcoming sexual and gender-based violence is rooted in an understanding of justice rooted in faith and not only a private issue or a task for political or legal instances.

By being part of the “Precious in God’s Eyes” Campaign, faith communities say NO to human trafficking, rape, domestic violence, child and forced marriage, honour crimes, female genital mutilation and other types of abuse.

We are inviting you to actively take part in this campaign: Take a picture with a pledge or with your personal affirmation and publish it.

"I encourage my faith community to protect, support and accompany survivors of rape and violence"        "I denounce trafficking of women and children"        "I do not keep silent on sexual and gender-based violence"        "I oppose harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage"        "I invest in education for girls"        "I support women's and girls' quest for justice"

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Photostory from Mali

by Iman Sandra Pertek

Knowing Who We Are

by LWF

In an interview marking the 16 Days of advocacy against Gender-Based Violence Rev. Dr Faith Kokubelwa Lugazia called on churches to work and pray together for justice in the world. Photo: LWF

Tanzanian theologian Rev. Dr Faith Kokubelwa Lugazia says churches that remain silent in the face of gender injustice are renouncing their prophetic role and she sees the 21st century as a ‘kairos moment’ to tackle the issue.

“I believe more and more women of faith today know who they really are and push the churches to go further in the analysis of violence and discrimination as a problem harming the whole community of believers, not only women,” Lugazia said.

She called on churches to work and pray together for justice in the world and urged them to look at their pastoral care processes and structures as a concrete way of unveiling the unbalanced power relations at the core of gender injustice.

An active member of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) women’s network, Women in Church and Society (WICAS), Lugazia has embraced gender justice as an integral dimension of her personal journey.

She was one of the first two women to be ordained in the Northwestern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania in 2006, gained her PhD in systematic theology at Luther Seminary St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a lecturer at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences in Rwanda.

These experiences have nourished her commitment to women’s full participation in the life of the church and society.

“Realizing who I am, made me be strong. I grew up as a second class citizen in my family and in the wider community with an ‘obeying faith’ that progressively became a ‘questioning faith’” she said.

“The moment when you are able to ask “why?” leads to another crucial step: to stand firm and to be able to say “No” to any injustices.”

Having said “no” to gender injustice, the Tanzanian theologian spent three years writing Naweza (“I Can Do It”) to try and build bridges between educated women and those who have little opportunity for education.

In an interview marking the 16 Days of advocacy against Gender-Based Violence, Lugazia said churches must revisit practices which reflect double standards, and have an honest conversation about violence and sexual abuse, which are still largely taboo topics.

In some African contexts, for instance, she said churches' disciplinary practices around pregnancy outside of marriage falls on women. Fear galvanizes women to keep silent about the man’s responsibility in such situations.

Gender-biased hierarchical structures discriminate against women and increase their vulnerability to abuse. The women targeted cannot take Holy Communion, sing in the choir or be buried in a Christian way, whereas in most cases the concerned men do not undergo church discipline.

“In cases of sexual abuse, the fear of being killed by the perpetrator if they denounce him perpetuates impunity and even when it is only a threat with little chances of being effective, most of them won’t speak out,” Lugazia said.

The churches must raise their prophetic voice on issues like rape and not assume that this is a challenge to be tackled by the government. If it does, it loses an opportunity to make a difference.

“There should be more reflection and preaching around this issue. Aren’t many of the abusers baptized Christians?” she asked.

Women in the churches need to build up their knowledge about women’s rights and responsibilities and encourage their churches to interact more with civil society actors and governments to address painful issues such as child marriage and other forms of abuse.

They should pay attention to the language used by male church leaders, which often suggests men are giving, ensuring or offering things, while women’s are understood to be passive recipients or beneficiaries of men’s gifts.

“Patriarchy needs to be challenged with gender analysis and being attentive to the way we speak is part of what we as women can do,” she added.

Lugazia urged women to develop tools that allow them to mentor one another so they can make concrete contributions to bringing about gender justice in church and society, pointing to the women of the Bible as models of resistance and change.

“Giving visibility to strong female characters in the biblical texts, like Zelophehad’s daughters who challenged the inheritance laws, can inspire women in similar situations today,” she concluded.

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A Pilgrimage from Thursday to Thursday

by Lyn van Rooyen

When first introduced to Thursdays in Black, it seemed like an “easy” thing to do. What could be simpler – wear black clothes on Thursdays and wear my pin to show that I dream of a world without rape and violence. Every ‘good’ Christian could support this and I casually suggested to my colleagues that this was something CABSA could support.

But what does a seemingly simple campaign to create awareness about sexual and gender-based violence have to do with the “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace”?

At first, this connection can seem obscure.

When we think of a pilgrimage, we often think of a physical journey, but it can also be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs. Thinking about peace, we are reminded that it is not only an absence of violence or conflict, but also the freedom from fear of violence, while justice holds in its meaning aspects such as fairness, righteousness and morality.

In the two and a half years supporting the campaign, CABSA and I realised that it is not simply “wearing black clothes and a badge” every Thursday.

As the weeks and months passed the number of interactions increased:

   • The teacher that told me how learners suddenly speak to her of the abuse they face at home, from fathers, uncles and brothers,
   • the young gas station attendant that greeted me with “Good morning, lady in black!” After I explained why I was wearing black, he asked for a badge: “Because my name is Life, you see, and if I want to be true to my name I have to support this”,
   • the woman at the airline counter who pointed to my badge and said: “My daughter is being abused by her husband, what should I do?”
   • the pastor who had to hear that the lead-elder has been abusing his wife for many years, and never felt that she could tell anyone “at church”.

I began to realise that this is not just something “easy”. The simple campaign was leading me on a journey into my own beliefs, particularly about gender and my own understanding of peace and justice. The pledge I committed to became a road map on this journey.

One Thursday morning I just did not feel like wearing black – I felt like something light and colourful. I stood in front of my cupboard, remembered my pledge and that there were women, children, even men, in situations of abuse that had no choice, and I realised that my promise of protest could not be based on what I feel like.

One morning I forgot what day it was, and dressed in a lilac shirt, with a lovely lilac and deep purple floral scarf. As I said goodbye, my husband asked: “Isn’t it Thursday?” And I turned around, took off my lovely lilac shirt, and dressed in black. I realised that my promise of solidarity could not be forgotten.

Attending the “Global Summit to End Violence in Conflict” with WCC-EHAIA, I was confronted by a well of pain deeper than I could imagine. The pain of a child soldier, raped daily for years, the pain of mothers seeing their children abused, of husbands viewing the rape of their wives. I realised that my promise of mourning cannot just be words.

As I read about the breadth and depth of the challenge and learnt words like “corrective rape” and “rape culture”, I realised how little we know about the problem and how important my promise of awareness and information is. I realised that I need to be informed to continue the discussions and give real and considered advice when asked.

My husband wears black every Thursday, whether teaching, guiding strategy sessions or even on the beach. I realised that every time he and every other man supporting the campaign wears black, they embody the promise of hope of a different reality, of thousands of men who would never contemplate violence.

Every sentence of the pledge continues to challenge me in many different ways.

Through the seemingly “easy” campaign, I embarked on an unexpected pilgrimage, which forced me to explore my own beliefs around a Biblical understanding of gender and how unhealthy theologies have contributed to gender based violence and forced me to think about the absence of justice and peace in gender relations.

A seemingly simple campaign with no central campaign resources of secretariat survived for nearly 40 years, has grown world-wide and continues to guide individuals, churches and organisations large and small, in confronting all forms of gender violence.

You could ask about the success if the campaign is still necessary after 40 years. Thursdays in Black champions can tell many stories of increased openness, awareness and changes in attitude. But for a problem so large, so ubiquitous and so pervasive, more is needed.

Join the growing swell of people in black on Thursdays on a pilgrimage of justice and peace, towards a world without rape and violence.

CABSA manages an online resource kit of faith based and secular information and resources on sexual and gender based violence available on www.thursdaysinblack.com

The Thursdays in Black Campaign pledge can be signed online at www.thursdaysinblack.co.za/pledge and photos and stories can be shared on www.facebook.com/ThursdaysBlack

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Rocky Road to School – in the West Bank

by paivimoore

Schools will soon be out for the summer here in Palestine. In the last two weeks of the spring semester, pupils go into school each day just to take one examination in the mornings. Then they return home. Over the past two months or so, we EAs in South Hebron Hills have visited many schools in the region. Nearly every single one of them has had worries and concerns that they have passed on to us.

Schools that are located in ISF Firing zones find themselves under multiple threats. They are denied building permits, which means the structures are torn down at regular intervals. Hamed Qawasmeh, in his capacity as Director of the Hebron International Resources Network (HIRN), has been involved on the financing side in many building projects. He helps among many other things Palestinian villages in the military areas to acquire portable structures for their schools, so that they can more easily be dismantled and moved elsewhere when the bulldozers and the excavators show up.

Another subject close to Hamed’s heart is the education of girls. Fathers in some of the more conservative villages tend to pull their daughters out of school when they reach adolescence, if they have to attend mixed classes with boys. Hamed does what he can to help these village schools to get separate blocks for the girls, in order that the parents would not be so inclined to terminate their schooling. Last summer, Hamed collected funds for this Bedouin school in the village of Zweidin, east of Yatta, in order to get a separate classroom for 10th Grade girls. I asked Hamed: “Wouldn’t it be more sensible to enlighten the parents?” “No”, he answered. “It is much too slow a process. Only by educating the girls can you enlighten future parents.”

One sees a lot of schoolchildren in Palestine. They are often out and about in groups, and here in the relatively remote villages of South Hebron Hills they giggle among themselves when they spot a foreigner. “Hello! What’s your name?” they shout cheerily from afar. Outsiders are a relatively rare sight hereabouts. But in some places the kids are all too familiar with the sight of foreigners, and it is not a good sign. It usually means something is wrong in their daily lives.

Photo: N. Rivera

Photo: N. Rivera

In some villages, for instance, the local children have to walk to and from school along the side of settler roads. One example is the kids returning from school in Banī Na’īm to their homes in the village of Bīrīn. In the past the settlers driving by on the road have behaved aggressively towards the children, with the result that international volunteers have been asked to walk home with the kids at regular intervals.

Photo: J. Fisher

Photo: J. Fisher

Photo: J. Fisher

There are many dangerous roads to and from school, but the path children take between the tiny hamlet of Tuba and the schools in nearby At-Tuwani is in a league all of its own. The route they must follow goes through the Israeli settlement of Ma’on, dating from 1981. The settlers here are notoriously violent, with a long history of attacks – even against children. Consequently, the most dangerous stretch of the road to and from school has had to be patrolled by Israeli soldiers. The same practice continues to this day, for the hostile settlers in the outpost above the road have not gone anywhere. It is indeed a bizarre sight to behold. The children wait under a tree, and they set off only when the military vehicle arrives to safeguard their trip.

And then there is a place where the only image I have is this long-distance shot, because photography there is expressly forbidden. The kids of the village of Al Seefer have to pass through the Israeli-manned checkpoint of Beit Yatir every single day on their way to and from school. It is a fifteen-minute walk, door to door, but they never know how long the process will take. Every day, the same kids’ schoolbags and satchels are inspected, birth certificates are shown for the hundredth time to soldiers who know perfectly well who the kids are, and there are body searches, particularly of the older girls. This sort of thing should not be a part of the daily process of going to school. Anywhere. We went today to the school that these children attend, in Imneizil. We asked the school’s principal whether the daily inspections at the checkpoint have affected the kids. He looked rather gloomily at the floor and admitted: “Yes, they are different from the others. They are often late for school, they are often irritable, and they do not do well in class.” He called in the older girls referred to above. We asked them how long the inspections at the checkpoint usually take. “About half an hour”, they told us in quiet, shy tones. I asked the principal if there was any counselling available for the pupils; access to a psychologist. “Well, in Yatta, yes, perhaps”, he replied, “But not way down here.” We South Hebron EAs decided that we would do what we could to see to it that the girls at least get some support.

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by Susanna Vilpponen

Palestine has suffered greatly due to the current wave of violence. It’s affecting students greatly. They are afraid and do not have safe access to education. Increased violence from Israeli settlers and the Israeli military threatens the students’ security. They are now experiencing violence and harassment from settlers on a regular basis on their way to and from school.

Ayat Jabari, age 30, is living with her family next to the illegal Israeli settlement. She is studying at the University of Hebron for her second degree. She is happy to have a chance to study again but everyday life is difficult and dangerous for her.

Ayat tells that she was once coming home from the university. Settlers were praying next to her home and when they saw Ayat they started to throw stones at her. She was hit on the head by a stone and knocked unconscious. Her family called an ambulance but it took two and a half hours to come because Israeli army had closed the checkpoint near to her home. It took over two hours for the ambulance personnel to negotiate the permission to enter the area. Ayat had problems after the incident; she couldn’t see well and was suffering from headaches, which caused insomnia. While recovering from the incident, she couldn’t study.

Even inside her house, Ayat is not safe. Settlers often throw stones and shout outside her house, sometimes all night long. “On Fridays, we only stay inside of the house. Nobody can sleep”, Ayat says.

Settlers have also tried to enter the house, and soldiers have been throwing tear gas to the house when there have been pregnant women and children inside.

The family doesn’t receive any visitors, because the house is deemed too dangerous. Ayat hopes that the situation will get better and there’ll be a change soon.

“I am so afraid. I hope one day I could bring my brothers out from here to see something different. They only know this kind of life. They don’t know of anything beautiful.”

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16 Days Activism Against Gender–Based Violence Campaign in Indonesia See photos

Side by Side Faith Movement Tanzania chapter officially launched on 30th November 2017 See photos
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We Will Speak Out – working together to end sexual violence:

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is encouraging church leaders to speak up publicly against gender-based violence. Joining the interfaith campaign “Precious in God’s Eyes,” LWF leaders have affirmed the long-standing commitment of the LWF to protect women and girls against violence:

The blog of me too stories from Church of Sweden:

The Desk for Women & Gender of Mission 21 has designed a webpage as a place for networking and exchange of experiences among women:

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