African bishops and The Episcopal Church issue communique

roof with crossExcerpt:

Friends walk together.  Friends go the distance together.  Friends make music together.  Friends of Jesus love each other just as he commanded (v. 14).  Friends share their needs and their gifts, their burdens and their joys.  Over the years in the Anglican Communion, we have had the experience of together reconciling the world to Christ in diverse and creative ways.  It is what we call mission, which is grounded in the holy and transforming friendship that comes through our common life in Christ.

Finally, we are aware that in our small but intentional gathering, we engaged the practice of Indaba, and experienced the transformational reality that has characterized so much of the life of the Anglican Communion since our last Lambeth Conference.  We are anxious to encourage this across the Communion and will be calling on our counterparts to do so in the days ahead.”

The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi                     The Most Rev. Albert Chama
Archbishop of Burundi                                         Archbishop of Central Africa

The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba                          The Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya
Archbishop of Southern Africa                           Archbishop of Tanzania

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori         The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church     Archbishop of West Africa

The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls                                  The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves
Chief Operating Officer, TEC                              Bishop of El Camino Real

The Rt. Rev. Ogé Beauvoir                                   The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III
Bishop Suffragan of Haiti                                     Bishop Provisional of Pennsylvania

See Full Text:

Episcopal Church, African primates, bishops issue communique.

Posted in Africa, Anglican Communion, Central Africa, Haiti, Indaba, Partnership, South Africa, Tanzania, The Episcopal Church, West Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

United Nations Day

A monitor in the meeting room of the Committee on Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations, to which the Episcopal Church was granted special consultative status in January 2014 (Photo by Lynnaia Main)

A monitor in the meeting room of the Committee on Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations, to which the Episcopal Church was granted special consultative status in January 2014 (Photo by Lynnaia Main)

United Nations Day is Friday, October 24. When Jesus instructed the disciples to heal the sick, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, serve the poor and proclaim good news to the captives and the oppressed, it was well before the ratification of the United Nations Charter on October 24, 1945. And yet, being present at the United Nations and cooperating with UN agencies is one way in which 2 million Episcopalians in 17 countries live more fully into our Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves” and “strive for justice and peace among all people.”

So how, exactly, do Episcopalians live this out? The Episcopal Church has a long-standing ministry and presence at the UN, both as a member province of the Anglican Communion and independently.

Along with Anglican brothers and sisters, Episcopalians – volunteers and staff, lay and ordained – attend events at the UN, participate in working groups on issues such as human trafficking and annual gatherings such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Episcopalians in parishes and dioceses worldwide inform, educate, raise awareness and develop programs on global issues treated at the UN. These issues include: working toward peace and reconciliation; supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Post-2015 Development Agenda; reversing climate change and protecting the environment; ensuring food security; protecting human rights; empowering women and girls; and supporting the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, their lands and cultures.
Episcopalians organize workshops, talks and marches on UN-related themes, view UN events via webcasts, contribute funds to relief and humanitarian agencies that work with UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and UNICEF. They work with Episcopal Migration Ministries to resettle refugees in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They advocate locally and at the federal level on issues of importance to them, which are also debated in a global context at the United Nations. Episcopalians commemorate UN Observances and special days in congregations and dioceses, such as World Refugee Day, International Day of the Girl Child and Human Rights Day.

2014 has been a landmark year for the ministries of the Episcopal Church at and with the United Nations. The Episcopal Church was recognized in January at the United Nations for its “noble work” and many ministries that contribute to the work of the UN and its agencies – a recognition that was affirmed in Executive Council’s resolution WM 019 in February.

This year the Episcopal Church was also granted “special consultative status” with the Economic and Social Council, one of six UN main bodies and by which faith-based and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) officially associate with the UN.
“Think of this as an upgrade from economy to business class on the UN airplane”, explained Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s Global Relations officer and liaison to the United Nations. “It will allow the church, for the very first time, to send official delegates to major UN annual commissions and submit written and oral statements reflecting the church’s positions on issues being debated at the UN.”
To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s role with the United Nations or get your parish, diocese or seminary involved, please contact Lynnaia Main,

Posted in Advocacy, Anglican Communion, United Nations | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vulnerability in prayer

Mary Higbe and teachers in Eldoret, Kenya.

Mary Higbe and teachers in Eldoret, Kenya.

Mary Higbe, after being on a team that worked with and trained teachers from the Anglican Diocese of Eldoret, June 2014:

“I wrote of being asked by the Eldoret teachers to say the grace for tea. What I was given to say was a prayer for the teachers and their students, for their safety and guidance and resources. When I said Amen and looked up, I had twenty-four teachers smiling at me and then they clapped. I could not have anticipated this and at that moment was thoroughly vulnerable to them and God. And that is the lesson that mission teaches–the rarity of allowing yourself to be vulnerable and in doing so finding the center of God’s love that can flow from you and you receive it back.

That moment represents the month in Kenya for me.”

Posted in Africa, Kenya, Mission, Missionaries | Leave a comment

Ending Violence Against Our Children

Yvonne O'Neal and her son Dorian

Yvonne O’Neal and her son Dorian

Our guest blogger today, Human Rights Day, is Yvonne O’Neal, a member of the L.O.V.E. (Liberate Ourselves, Value Everyone) Task Force on Non-Violent Living at the Church of the Holy Trinity in New York, NY.

My Facebook friends know that I post a lot about violence against women. Comments on these posts are very rare, while mundane posts garner lots of likes and commentary. No one wants to talk about violence against women and children. We prefer to turn a blind eye to the violence around us. But violence is everywhere. It is difficult to write about sexual abuse of children; about young boys and girls being trafficked into labor and the sex trade by their own mothers and fathers. Rape and incest are not polite topics of conversation. Because child victims are voiceless, they are invisible – but it is time to make the invisible visible. During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, we mainly talk about women, but rarely about girls, and almost never about boys (men are victims, too). This, too, must change.

The home should be a safe haven for girls and boys, but this is where most of the violence takes place. There are so many forms of violence that harm our children. Children are insulted, they are beaten, they are rejected, threatened, sexually molested in their homes. Sadly, when a boy or girl is raped, it is usually by someone they know and trust. It can be a neighbor, an aunt or uncle, a cousin, a sibling, another child, a teacher, a priest, a law enforcement officer. Sometimes it is mommy or daddy.

As part of the commemoration of these 16 days, I attended a program by the Value Caucus at the United Nations on healing sexual domestic violence. The program included a powerful documentary: Secret Survivors: Using Theatre to Break the Silence; it was the impetus for writing this blog posting about violence against children. These were profoundly moving stories of adults who had been sexually molested as children. The sad facts are that 20 percent of women and 5-10 percent of men report being sexually abused as a child, according to UNICEF. One story from the film is that of a girl who whose dad would come in to her room at night. She went away to boarding school, but that didn’t stop him.  Her father came to the school after midnight, was let in, and spent the night in his daughter’s room. The dorm prefect observed how nice he was. The girl spoke up and said he was not, and told about how her father had abused her. The head of the school called the father. The first thing he asked was, “Is she pregnant?”

Not many cases of sexual abuse of children are reported because not many children speak up. And even when reported, perpetrators are not held accountable. Where can our children be safe? Too often, they are not safe at home.  Nor are they safe at school. Remember Newtown? The one-year anniversary is just days away. All children should have a right to be safe at school. School-based violence is not a problem confined to schools; it is a complex, multifaceted societal issue.

And no country, state, or community is immune from interpersonal violence. It occurs across all demographics –  age, racial, ethnic, social and religious.  Millions of children around the world are at risk. Tragically, children with disabilities are the most vulnerable. UNICEF notes that “there is significant evidence that violence, exploitation and abuse can affect the child’s physical and mental health in the short and longer term, impairing their ability to learn and socialize, and impacting their transition to adulthood with adverse consequences later in life.” And the damage transcends individuals – it has broader impacts on families, communities and nations.

What can we do to end this insidious violence? First, we must end the silence! We must speak out and be advocates for change. At my parish, we have the L.O.V.E. (Liberate Ourselves, Value Everyone) Task Force on Non-Violent Living, founded by Dr. Victoria Jeanne Rollins in January 2012. L.O.V.E. is a vital program, reaching within and beyond religious and secular dimensions and agencies, towards an embracing, interdisciplinary community approach through sharing insights, determination, and cooperation in the common purpose of safe and abundant living for all.

We must protect our precious children. We must listen to them. They are not the future: our children are the here and now. The much-touted Millennium Development Goals did not have elimination of violence against women and children as one of its goals. As the United Nations considers the post-2015 agenda, we must advocate for a goal that ensures that children are free from violence and exploitation.

The Child Fund Alliance reports that:

  • Almost half of all children experience some form of physical violence before they      reach the age of 8.
  • An estimated 215 million children are involved in child labor, of which 115      million are engaged in hazardous work.
  • 150 million girls and 73 million boys worldwide are raped or subject to sexual      violence each year.

We must do something to change these horrific statistics. Together, we can be game-changers. Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can end violence against women and girls and boys.

Many thanks, Yvonne, for this post and your tireless efforts to end violence of all kinds.

Posted in Children, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, Youth | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Violence, Is it?

The Rev. Laurie Brock

The Rev. Laurie Brock

Our guest blogger today is the Rev. Laurie Brock. Laurie is the Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Lexington, Kentucky. With Mary Koppel, Laurie is also the co-author of Where God Hides Holiness: Thoughts on Grief, Joy, and the Search for Fabulous Heels and the popular blog, Dirty Sexy Ministry.

Gender violence begins in small ways. While physical abuse of women and physical sexual assault against women horrify us (as they should) when reported, we often forget that these are sadly only one aspect of gender-based violence. The endemic violence that most if not all women will encounter in their lives is the violence of words and attitudes that tell women we are less than men, that our thoughts and opinions aren’t as important as those of men, that our physical selves are fodder to be reduced to comments about nice legs and nice breasts and a pretty face that violate our dignity. This violence is all too often excused as boys being boys, men making jokes, and women being over-sensitive. This gender-based violence pervades our churches, schools, and workplaces each day. This violence cuts our souls so that our spirit and lifeblood ooze from us, day after day, year after year.

After writing of my experience with this type of violence in Where God Hides Holiness, I received emails, letters, and had tearful conversations with women whose hearts, too, had been broken by the violence of having their dignity abused and assaulted by the church. Some resonated with my experience of being told I had a nice rack in a clergy shirt by a senior priest or hearing other demeaning comments made by clergy and laity about women and the pain of having those comments laughed off as jokes when we spoke of the discomfort we experienced when hearing those words. Others shared far more tragic accounts of psychological and spiritual assaults.

Let’s be clear about violence – it does not just occur when there is physical damage. Studies of the human brain show that when we experience a physical wound or an emotional wound, our brain registers it the same way. In our faith, we are charged with binding and healing the physical wounds. But the emotional ones, the ones where our very spirits and souls have been systemically degraded and demeaned by the actions or inactions others? We rarely do anything to provide healing, and even less to prevent those forms of violence.

Responding to violence against women as if it only occurs when fist meets jaw only addresses part of the issue. How do we respond when we witness a woman being demeaned by a superior? How do we address people who marginalize women by the words they say? When we hear someone equate being physically weaker than most ment or having an emotional response as “acting like a girl,” do we hear that as a form of gender violence? And do we recognize that all spiritual and psychological violence against women is also a violent act against Christ?

My experience and the experience of far too many in the church is that gender-based emotional and spiritual violence is excused, ignored, and, in some circles, invited and encouraged. When groups of those in authority gather to discuss this type of assault and harassment (on the rare occasion they do), these groups are, by and large, led and populated in the majority by men. Of course, men are injured when violence is done to any member of the body of Christ, but what would these gatherings look like and how much better might they respond if women gathered to share their stories, if men and women in authority heard these experiences as violence that must be addressed in our churches and in our culture, and if our churches saw safety of the soul as important as physical safety? What if we recognized that emotional and spiritual violence is as damaging as physical gender-based violence? What if we saw those who inflicted the violence as perpetrators and focused our healing attention on them instead of deriding the victims of this type of violence?

What if we as a Church, as a community of faith, committed to respecting the dignity of every human being and seeking and serving Christ in all people, began truly to respect the dignity of women and honoring the truths and experiences by recognizing that behaviours, attitudes, and words of the past that inflicted violence have no place in the body of Christ?

And said, with one resounding voice, “This ends now.”

 Many thanks Laurie for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

Posted in Domestic Violence, Gender-Based Violence, The Episcopal Church, Women | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Haiti – A Place of Gender-Based Violence

Our guest bloggers today are the Rev. Canon Rosemari Sullivan, who is a Special Coordinator for Haiti in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, and Guilene Fiefie, a delegate to the 2014 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from the Diocese of Haiti. This post begins with an introduction from Rosemari and continues with a very thought-provoking reflection from Guilene.

As a partner of the Diocese of Haiti in the work of rebuilding, I am grateful to my colleague Guilene for her report focusing on the issue of rape in the camps and poorest settlements in Haiti.  There are many courageous women working in and through groups that seek to address all aspects of sexual violence in Haiti.  In my visits to Haiti, I have visited with the MUDHA organization in the Leogane area.  This is an organization established in 1985 in the Dominican Republic to aid Haitian women and children working in the Dominican Republic.  After the earthquake in 2010 the founder of the organization Sonia Pierre travelled to Leogane and immediately began working with the orphaned children and women in the Camps.  It is part of the overall tragedy that gender based violence has increased in Haiti despite the efforts of organizations like MUDHA.

My colleague rightly notes that lack of women in the police force.  This is complicated by the fact that there are simply an insufficient number of police.  The response to rape requires  special training for all the responders; hospitals, clinics, police and victims.  There are groups seeking to make systemic change in Haiti.  However, this is difficult in a place as volatile and poor as Haiti.

It is my hope that all of the Church communities in Haiti will begin to address this systemic evil and offer positive support to victims.

- The Rev. Canon Rosemari Sullivan

Since I do not know of any specific cases of gender violence in the community where I am living now and I do have any personal experience of it, I would like to talk about something which is very prominent in Haiti now: Rape. This continues at a high rate, especially among the people leaving under the tents after the earthquake that happened in January 2010. Gender violence manifests itself in different forms. For instance, in addition to rape we also know that there is sexual harassment, which includes many forms. My aim in this article is to share some recent cases of gender violence, mostly regarding rape, I heard from the news regarding the people who are still living in tents in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Rape is like a huge iceberg in Haiti. The police officers are not able to overcome it. Girls and women are not safe and many have been raped due to the lack of security. This is a very dramatic situation because of reports that the police are a waste of time since the police officers are not able to identify the criminals.

Camp conditions make it easy for predators to take advantage of women and girls. They operate late at night when they think that people are sleeping. The main factors of this phenomenon are the lack of lighting, not having well-constructed houses, the lack of police presence, and, in some cases, the carelessness of police officers. What makes rape one of the worst gender-based crimes that we have had in Haiti is the fact that it affects mostly teenage girls under fourteen. Some of them are orphans. They have lost their parents and they do not have a safe place to sleep.

The victims range from children of five years of age to adults of sixty-two according to the national Haitian radio and TV (RTNH). Most of the victims are raped by two or more assailants. The criminal are armed with guns, knives, and other weapons. Since they are unable to identify the attackers, some people believe that they are gang members from the poorest place in the city named “Cite Soleil” (the city of Sun). Another group of people believes that they are prisoners who have escaped from the prison who have not been recaptured by the authorities. Recently, one woman was courageous to report to the “Metropole” radio station that some unknown men took her to a house in an unknown location and they raped and repeated beat her for three days before she had a chance to escape.

The lack of female police officers is also a big issue. Women are generally unwilling to report rape or domestic violence to men, notably when they’re mocked, treated dismissively, and, at times, blamed or accused of promiscuity. As a result, authorities downplay the issue, allocate few resources, and help the rich and not the vulnerable Haitians who are out of luck and on their own. This leaves the rapists free to seek other victims or the same ones again.

In brief, if we are to secure women’s rights and their freedom from violence, it is imperative that we adopt an integrated human rights perspective that stresses the equal importance of civil and political rights and economic and social rights. Tracking down gender violence mostly depends on the government’s duties. However, the church can play a role by encouraging the government to make laws regarding women’s right and to punish the criminals. We have a long way to go to help women to live in freedom. I hope one day Haiti will have a government that is not careless regarding human rights.

We give thanks for Guilene’s willingness to speak out about gender violence in Haiti and for Rosemari and all those around the church who continue to walk with Haiti.

Posted in Francophone, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, Haiti, Men, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, UNCSW | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Challenge Violence of Every Kind: The Fourth Mark of Mission

The Rev. Heather Melton and some friends in Liberia.

The Rev. Heather Melton and some friends in Liberia.

Our guest blogger for today is the Rev. Heather Melton, who serves as the Coordinator of the United Thank Offering.

For the past 8 days, this blog has shared stories from different voices to help draw attention and awareness to the Sixteen Days of Activism against Violence against Women.  As I read these blogs and reflected on the deep sadness and pain that violence of any kind has caused in our world, I, perhaps like you, began to feel overwhelmed and wondered what any of us could do about any of it.  It would be easy enough to turn away from this discussion at the end of the sixteen days. Easy to return to our lives and forget in the busy nature of Advent the pain of violence in our communities around the world, but we as Christians were not called to an easy path.  As Episcopalians, we do not have the luxury to turn away because we promise through our Baptismal Covenant, that with God’s help, we will strive for justice and peace.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it best in my favorite book, God has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time:

Dear Child of God, do you realize that God needs you? Do you realize that you are God’s partner?  When there is someone hungry, God wants to perform the miracle of feeding that person.  But it won’t any longer be through manna falling from heaven.  Normally, more usually, God can do nothing until we provide God with the means, the bread and the fish, to feed the hungry.  When a person is naked, God wants to perform the miracle of clothing that person, but it won’t be with a Carducci suit or Calvin Klein outfit floating from heaven.  No, it will be because you and I, all of us, have agreed to be God’s fellow workers, providing God with the raw material for performing miracles.  There is a church in Rome with a statue of a Christ without arms.  When you ask why, you are told that it shows how God relies on us, His human partners, to do His work for Him.  Without us, God has no eyes; without us, God has no ears; without us, God has no arms.  God waits upon us, and relies on us.

A sign in Liberia, part of a campaign against violence.

A sign in Liberia, part of a campaign against violence.

The words of Desmond Tutu are a helpful reminder that we cannot walk away from these sixteen days the same as we were when we started the journey.  Someone once taught me the principle of “what, so what, now what”.  We’ve heard the what, and now I want to invite you to consider the so what.  So what do we do with what we’ve learned?  How will these stories offer transformation to structures of violence in our communities and around the world? How will we answer God’s waiting?  The fourth mark of mission calls us to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.  We cannot wait for someone else to stand up against violence; we must each do it, working together as God’s human partners.  The United Thank Offering is here to support you in your walk with Christ to overcome violence.

For almost 125 years, the United Thank Offering has collected funds given in gratitude by Episcopalians in “blue boxes” and distributed the money to support innovative ministries in the church.  Each year, the United Thank Offering Board determines priorities for granting to address an area that is in need of attention and funding in our communities.  In 2014, we invite you to consider how your congregation or diocese seeks to overcome violence and apply for a United Thank Offering grant to support this important work.  Information concerning the granting process and the priorities can be found here. The 2014 grant application will be available on January 3, 2014 and the deadline to submit your application is February 28.

Perhaps you aren’t ready to embark on a new mission or ministry to address violence at your church in 2014.  Then I invite you to start (or invigorate) your United Thank Offering in your parish to help raise funds to support those ministries that will work to overcome violence thanks to the support of a grant from the United Thank Offering.  For more information on starting or further increasing your United Thank Offering please visit our webpage.  Together, as Archbishop Tutu reminds us, as human partners with God, we hope to overcome violence, one grateful coin placed in a blue box at a time.

Many thanks to Heather and the UTO Board for their ministry and leadership!

Posted in Anglican Communion, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, Mission, Resources, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, United Thank Offering, Women | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Donkeys, Plows, and Gender-Based Violence

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and some new friends in northern Ghana.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and some new friends in northern Ghana.

Our guest blogger for today is the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church.

During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, I’ve been thinking about donkeys and plows.

Late last month, my friends at Episcopal Relief & Development announced that they, together with the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organisation (ADDRO) in the Diocese of Tamale, Ghana, have been awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The funds will provide loans for women smallholder farmers to acquire a donkey, a plow and a cart for plowing their own fields and renting to others.

What do the donkeys and plows have to do with ending gender-based violence? Plenty, as I learned last summer when I traveled to the Diocese of Tamale in northern Ghana with 18 other Episcopalians on an Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage. There I met women farmers, market stall owners, seamstresses and rice mill operators who are benefitting from economic empowerment programs made possible by Anglicans in Ghana and Episcopalians who support Episcopal Relief & Development.

In a region of the country that has seen little of the economic prosperity recently enjoyed in the south, these Ghanaian businesswomen are gaining small measures of economic independence that increase their authority in their households and their ability to make decisions for them and their children. As a result, they are reducing their risk for gender-based violence.

Last year during the 16 Days of Activism, Impatient Optimists—a blog of the Gates Foundation—quoted Stella Dube, a Zimbabwean women who owns five market stands, explaining how economic empowerment reduces gender-based violence:

“When I started making enough to pay for the children’s school fees, clothe and feed them, as if by magic the abuse from my husband abruptly stopped. It was as if he had gained some new found respect for me and started treating me as his equal. He has not raised his fist to me in seven years and I think he fears that if he does it again I am empowered enough to leave him and start a life for myself or worse report him to the police.”

In the same blog post, Adeline Sibanda from UN-Women amplifies Dube’s experience. “Gender based violence against women in most families is a result of over dependence on men,” she says. “If women can be empowered economically and are earning, they will not be violated.”

The intersection of poverty and gender-based violence isn’t just found across the ocean. Here in the United States, while women of all economic levels can be vulnerable to gender-based violence, the Department of Justice reports that women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods are more than twice as likely to be the victims of intimate violence compared with women in more advantaged neighborhoods. The ACLU reports that in Minnesota in 2003, 46 percent of homeless women reported that they had previously stayed in abusive relationships because they had nowhere else to go.

These women may not need donkeys and plows, but they do need Episcopalians and other people of faith to advocate for safety net programs, job training and other measures that can lift women and children out of poverty and provide the dignity and independence that makes them less vulnerable to gender-based violence.

I entered seminary just a few weeks after the Philadelphia Eleven were ordained, and during my career as a priest, our church has made great strides toward accepting the authority of women, lay and ordained, and expanding our understanding of gender and sexuality as gifts from God. But much of our work for equality in the last forty years has disproportionately benefited women who are white, privileged and educated. If we Episcopalians can mount the kind of effort to end gender-based violence that we mounted to achieve the ordination of women, I am confident we can get results.

Our baptismal promises call us to accept this challenge and Resolution A139 of the 2012 General Convention gives us the roadmap. It’s my hope that the 16 Days of Activism will renew our resolve to work for women’s empowerment not only for ourselves, but also for all women living in poverty across the Anglican Communion.

Many thanks to Gay for her leadership and for sharing this reflection with us!

Posted in Africa, Anglican Communion, Community Development, Gender-Based Violence, Ghana, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, West Africa, Women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Advent of Good News: AIDS and Gender Violence

Red RibbonToday, Day 7 in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, is also the 25th annual World AIDS Day and the first day of Advent. Gender-based violence is a pervasive reality across the globe, and affects both women and men. Women who inject drugs, female sex workers, and transgender people are often those most affected. Additionally, according to some figures, around 150 million girls under the age of 18 have experienced some form of sexual violence, with many never disclosing their traumatic experience.

The link between gender violence and HIV/AIDS is well established. According to a recent report of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN agency leading the response to the AIDS epidemic, research has clearly linked intimate partner violence and HIV, with women subject to intimate partner violence 50% more likely to acquire the virus. Every hour, 50 young women become newly infected with HIV.  According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), about one in three women around the world experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner.

Such a clearly established link led, in 2011, to the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS between UN Member States, which pledged to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based abuse and violence, and to protect women from the risk of HIV infection. To continue to counteract the AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS has called for an end to gender violence which, besides violating human rights, also increases the risk of HIV infection.

Certainly, there has been improvement in the care for people infected with HIV/ ADIS such that we are now living in a time where people are truly “living with” AIDS, rather than dying. Yet millions around the world still live in a state of suffering, stigmatization, ostracism, and fear.

So how do we as Christians, and as the Church, respond to Christ’s call to be agents of healing and proclaim the coming of the One who is the ultimate Healer? Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is simply to choose hope for ourselves and our fellow sisters and brothers who suffer. We can listen to those who need our care, proclaim that the One who heals has already come to save and heal the world, and cry out to God on behalf of those in need of prayer. As our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said this past week in a joint statement for World AIDS Day with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “…let us recommit this World AIDS Day to activity and vigilance in order to hasten the coming of the transformation that is the future God dreams for all creation.”

Posted in Anglican Communion, Domestic Violence, Gender-Based Violence, Girls, HIV/AIDS, Men, Social Justice, The Episcopal Church, United Nations, Women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 6: News and Resources from Around the Communion

As we continue to journey through the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence/Violence against Women, we give thanks that more and more people across the Church and around the Communion are engaging in conversations and prayers about this and related gender issues.

Earlier this week there was an Anglican Communion News Service article about how the Church of the Province of Central Africa has been challenged to “level the playing field” for men and women in the church. Njira Bweupe, who is a gender and leadership consultant from the Churches Council of Zambia, gave a workshop to delegates from across Central Africa prior to the Provincial Synod in Lusaka. Bellah Zulu, the ACNS Africa Correspondent, wrote a great article about the workshop and spoke with a lot of people who attended. The article provides a great overview of what sounded like a very interesting conversation.

Photo from Sandra Andrade, National Coordinator of SADD

Photo from Sandra Andrade, National Coordinator of SADD

In Brazil, Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira of the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro shared photos from a service for the Rio launch of a resource called “Preventing and coping with domestic violence against women.” The booklet, developed by the Anglican Service for Diaconia and Development (SADD), is one of many examples of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil’s long-standing commitment to social justice issues. An ACNS news article from earlier this year gives more information about this document.

Another resource we’d like to highlight is the 16 Days of Activism Pack from the Mother’s Union. It includes activities, a theology of gender, a succinct overview of gender violence, and information about how the Mother’s Union is working to end gender violence around the world.

Lastly, if you’ve not heard of the Anglican Alliance, we’d like to introduce you to their work around women’s empowerment. The Alliance produced a resource called “Justice for Women” for International Women’s Day and it contains lots of helpful information. It’s also a good reminder that the work of gender equality and empowerment goes on year-round. We give thanks for the leadership of the Alliance on this issue.

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