In some parts of Africa Violence Against Women (VAW) is so pervasive that one would be tempted to call it normal – in South Africa where 1 in 4 men have raped, or in Liberia where 80% of women endured sexual assualt during the civil war, or in Somalia where the genitals of more than 90% of girls are mutilated in the name of culture, or in households across the continent where beatings and abuse are so regular that girls grow up expecting nothing else. But to call any of this normal would so skew ones own understanding of normality that the word would simply loose all meaning.
With this level of abuse the sad reality is that our churches are filled not only with victims and survivors but also with abusers – with those who beat their wives, who rape their neighbours, who damage their children and all to often our silence is seen as condoning such behavior and to some our theology and practice is seen as a fundamental part of the problem.
How then do we even start to address this? How do we turn the tide of abuse? How do we redefine “normal”? That is the task that God seems to have set before us. Not a task that any of us takes lightly and one that we all acknowledge is so far beyond us that without God’s very obvious intervention we are doomed to fail. Ultimately we are seeking a fundamental shift in behaviour – a sea change in the relationships between men and women. To enable this change we will seek to support and encourage:
– The development and dissemination of a robust Afro-centric Theology of power, gender, marriage and VAW (including resources for theological education and local congregations);
– Raising Awareness of VAW (including education, campaigns, preaching and teaching as a means to shift churches and communities into action);
– The enhancement of basic Social Service Provision (including legal aid, places of safety, counselling and health care);
– Criminal Justice Reform (including reforms to the legislative and policy framework, as well as to policing and legal proceedings);
– Shifts in Cultural Norms (including cultures of silence, norms of violence, gender relations etc).
This is something that churches can do. It is something that is well within our Kingdom mandate. The only reason not to engage in this is support for the status quo – to stand with the abuser, with the powerful, with the aggressor. If that is our choice then we should not be surprised to find that the heavens seems as brass and on the day of our fasting our God does not answer.
NOTE: Of course this is not only an African issue – but it is also an African issue. So much of the #metoo movement has focused our attention on what is happening in the West – this post is in no way diminishing that, but rather expanding that to #inAfricatoo.