Saudades. Esperença. Justiça.

World Mission Sunday is February 15!  To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.


 

Guest Blogger: Rachel McDaniel from the diocese of West Tennessee, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in the Diocese of Southwest Brazil.

IMG_4228Tuesday, January 27th, marked the second anniversary of the terrible fire that killed 242 people in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. This nightclub is just around the corner from my new church and office. It was a solemn day around the city; even the sky was crying. In a pause between the showers, I ran out to take some pictures of the front of the former club.

Several students from one of the local universities went out and painted these murals just before the anniversary. There is much unrest in regards to justice for the lives lost. There are many different levels of blame from officials falsifying documents about building codes down to illegal pyrotechnics being used, and very little, if any, jail time has been served by anyone involved.

IMG_4222As I have only been in Santa Maria such a short time, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and loss the people of this city have suffered and continue to suffer. There was a memorial service held Tuesday night that was incredibly touching. The theme of the service was Saudades, Esperença, and Justiça. Saudades does not have an equivalent translation in English, but the closest would be an intense heartache over being apart. Esperença means hope. Justiça means justice. The service began with thousands of rose petals being dropped from a helicopter flying overhead and ended with the release of over 200 white balloons. Bishop Francisco was asked to speak, and while I could not understand as he spoke in Portuguese, it was inspiring to see the families and loved ones of the victims react to his words. Be united in the pursuit for justice. It was wonderfully done.

IMG_4234As my brother passed away in December, it was challenging to be at this service. It was difficult and painful to see the pictures and hear the names of so many young people who died in such a terrible way. It brought my grief to the surface. Somehow, though, it was also very healing to be able to connect with over 1,000 other mourning people. While I certainly did not lose my brother in such a horrific fire at the hands of so many like the grieving people at the service did, I have lost someone recently that I love dearly. I felt closer to the people as we all grieved and celebrated those precious lives. As an outsider looking in at such a personal and tragic part of so many peoples’ lives, I did not feel disconnected and invasive like I know I could have. Instead, I was a part of that service by being able to grieve over everyone’s loss of cherished loved ones. It was a very powerful moment of healing and teaching for me. Saudades to the 242 beautiful souls who died in that fire. Saudade to Ben. No one is forgotten who is loved.

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Posted in Brazil, Mission, Missionaries, World Mission Sunday, YASC, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Mission Sunday- Feb 15, 2015

Young Adult Missionary Fred Addy at Hogar Escuela in Costa Rica.

Young Adult Missionary Fred Addy at Hogar Escuela in Costa Rica.

World Mission Sunday is an opportunity each year for Episcopal churches to celebrate worldwide ministry, and to think about the implication of our Baptismal promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” (BCP 305).  Churches are involved through companion relationships, prayers, giving, advocacy and action, both in their own communities and around the world.

Episcopal missionaries serve as a bridge between cultures and countries, connecting peoples to one another through relationship, conversation and service.  The Episcopal Church has long-term missionaries serving in over 24 countries, in dioceses of the Anglican communion as teachers, nurses, musicians, accountants, priests, doctors, agriculturalists, and many more, servants all.

The Rev. David Copley, former missionary to Liberia and Bolivia, and current Mission Personnel Officer for The Episcopal Church said, “We do not ‘do mission’ to or for others. Mission is not an activity in which someone is ‘sent’ and ‘received,’ mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky, of giving a little out of our excess. Mission is about being in a fully mutual and interdependent relationship, in which we recognize that we are blood of the same blood, flesh of the same flesh… We are invited by God to lift up our hearts, our minds and our very being to connect with our global family.” (Read the full text of Copley’s sermon at: Sermons that Work)

World Mission Sunday Video and Resources

World Mission Sunday Press Release

Mission Personnel

Young Adult Service Corps

Posted in Anglican Communion, Mission, Missionaries, World Mission Sunday, YASC | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kansas to Kenya: Building Relationships and a Global Community

We are very fortunate to have a fantastic guest blogger, Jennifer Allen from the Diocese of Kansas, sharing some of her experiences in Kenya with us as we commemorate World AIDS Day.

Jennifer Allen and Leah from the Masai Bead Collective

Jennifer Allen and Leah from the Masai Bead Collective

Jennifer Allen is an Episcopalian from the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. She has traveled with Kansas to Kenya (K2K) for two weeks each of the past three summers. She is a member of Saint Michael and All Angels Church in Mission, Kansas. She has served on the vestry at St. Michaels and has been a delegate to the Kansas Diocesan convention and is an alternate delegate for the national convention. Professionally, she is a nurse who specializes in the development of patient support programs to increase adherence to medication regimens for UBC. She has been married to David for 25 years, and their children, Matt and Olivia, are in college and actively involved in the church. Matt and Olivia both hope to travel with Jennifer to Kenya in the near future. She chronicles her work in Kenya on her blog at jen2kenya.blogspot.com

There is a highway that runs through Kenya from Mombasa to the South Sudan. It is known, generally, as the AIDS highway. Nestled along the highway is the village of Maai Mahiu. As we observe World AIDS Day, I’d like to share some of my experiences in Kenya with you:  I have had the blessing of working for three years with the Community Team for Kansas to Kenya (K2K) in this community. We have a number of active initiatives working in Maai Mahiu and the surrounding communities in conjunction with the College Team and the Medical team. We have  been able to provide clean water, drip irrigation, school meals for orphans, malaria nets, dental clinics, medical clinics, housing, two libraries with eReaders in partnership with WorldReader, microfinance programs, seminars in five communities to provide education to women on women’s rights, infant and maternal health, nutrition, reproductive health, dental care, spirituality and prayer, and alcohol and substance abuse; and construction and administration of Agatha’s Amani House, a safe house for women who are victims of gender based violence. All of these initiatives depend on our on-going relationships with the people of Maai Mahiu, Nakuru, and Naivasha.

Two initiatives in particular hold special significance to me, the conferences and Agatha’s Amani House. The women in these communities face incredible hurdles due to the economic conditions with which they are faced. Adding to those troubles, many of them have been subjected to horrific violence. During the post election violence of 2007-2008 that battered Kenya, these women were victims of rape, torture, and murder. As a result of the rape and the very real sex trafficking that occurs along the AIDS highway, many of these women suffer from a variety of sexually transmitted diseases that have left them with chronic illness, infertility, and other reproductive health issues. Sadly, this leads to an increase in the already high levels of gender based violence.

The opportunity to provide women with the tools that they need to overcome violence in their lives is a rare blessing. Our seminars open with prayer and songs of praise. Even faced with tremendous challenges, these women recognize the abundance of God’s love and grace. And it is the relationships with these women that provide the greatest blessing and the greatest opportunity for change and growth. Over the three years that I have been involved with the conferences, I have seen the growth of community activism and the dedication of the women that we see every year. These women are engaged in making real change in their families and wider communities. We are their partners in change and I treasure the relationships that we have built over the past three years. Together we are looking within our community to find the strength to say enough, no more, we will raise healthy daughters in healthy communities, with healthy relationships.

Longonot Women’s Conference

Longonot Women’s Conference

Agatha’s Amani House provides a different level of support. The house provides a safe place for women who are no longer able to negotiate a healthy relationship with their spouse or family members. Many of the women who we have worked with have been subjected to physical violence, rape, incest, arranged marriages of young girls, and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. The women served receive vitally needed health care, shelter, protection, and training for future success. The house itself provides a warm home, with a well outfitted kitchen, a brightly colored common room, comfortable sleeping quarters, a biogas generator, drip irrigation and land for crops, rabbits, goats, and a cow. From the community, we employ a staff social worker and a house mother. Together we provide access to our microfinance program and the women are prepared for a successful life away from the violence that they have come to know in their prior home life.

There continue to be many challenges. The undervaluing of women in the local economy leads to sex trafficking of women and young girls to increase family income. Because so many children are functional orphans due to unstable family environments, they are at risk of endangerment, exploitation, and violence. As children are raised facing violence and exploitation, they come of age with a skewed and disproportionate sense of the disposable nature of children and women.  Because of the exposure to multiple partners to which these children and women are subjected, AIDS, hepatitis, and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases continue to plague the region. Inconsistent access to health care and much-needed medications leads to advancing disease. But as the conversation moves forward with the community leaders we have come to know and with the resources and dedication of a prayerful community working together, there is a very real chance to achieve significant change in these communities.

For more information about Kansas to Kenya, please visit us at www.kansas2kenya.com.

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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, lmain@episcopalchurch.org.

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 , , | 3 Comments

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