The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign is an opportunity to show collective actions and solidarity in efforts to end violence against women. The campaign runs from the 25th of November, United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to the 10th of December, UN Human Rights Day.
In 1993, the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against women defined violence against women “as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Approximately two-in-three women reported having experienced violence from their spouse in the Pacific island countries which is alarmingly high by world standards. The Christian Talanoa Network (House of Sara, Fiji) launched the Break the Silent Sunday to remove the culture of silence and shame around violence against women especially in faith-based settings.
UN Women reported that in Vanuatu, three in five women (60%) who have ever been in a relationship have experienced either physical or sexual violence (or both) by a husband or intimate partner. More than two in three (68%) experienced emotional violence.
Since the border closure in March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the number of domestic violence cases in Vanuatu has surged and almost tripled compared to the average reports for previous years, Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC) Research Officer Sharon Frank revealed. “Sometimes they won’t talk to anyone directly, like sharing with their friends or relatives, that they are facing that problem. It is quite hard. Here (in Vanuatu) they tend to be a bit shy, they would say I can handle this, I can face that but in reality, it is a silent killer as well if it is affecting emotionally and mentally, resulting in break-ups and broken homes,” said Laurina Liwuslili, Psychologist of Wamogo Counselling and Psychology Services.*
Word Day of Prayer joins the World Council of Churches campaign Thursday in Black to raise awareness and say NO to gender-based violence and rape.
On these 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, let’s break the silence in our families, churches, WDP committees and affirm women’s human rights to a life free of violence.
Let us pray,
Loving God, you are the one who desires that all people be brought into right relationship with one another and with you. Show us the path to justice and peace in our families, our communities and our world and fill us with your transforming power. AMEN.*
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
*(Domestic Violence Surge During Lockdown, sista.com.vu, 2020)
*(Prayer from Break the Silence Sunday Liturgical Resource)
In the course of preparations for WDP 2019, for which Slovenia was the writer country, I was privileged to visit the ASPI Centre twice. I was very touched by their work. ASPI, I have since learned, is the name which Slovenes with Asperger syndrome use to refer to themselves.
The ASPI Centre helps and supports adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders. They prepare them for independent living, as much as possible, in cooperation with their parents and families. It is located in the outskirts of Domžale, a town in the greater Ljubljana region of Slovenia. The facility has been supplied by the local Caritas. It is a fairly small, longish narrow building with a garden attached in a quiet area not far from the old main road from Ljubljana to Maribor. They have some limited overnight accommodation and offer a series of programmes which include gardening and vegetable growing. They offer individual therapy, classes and activities that enable adolescents and adults to pursue their interests and develop their life skills in a meaningful way.
During my visit, I had the chance to see one of the neighbours assisting with the gardening, which appears to be a meeting point for the local community and the ASPI clientele. This Centre is a place to which persons on the autism spectrum and their families can come freely and find acceptance and help; which improves their wellbeing by making them feel more secure and calmer.
In Slovenia, there are limited official resources, recognition or understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Many families live in isolation and unaware of where to turn to for help and understanding. The government and the society still need to research and learn more about it. Official recognition of the disorder would help the organisations get financial aid from the state to assist those people and their families.
ASD can be manifested in extreme sensitivity to sounds, light, smells, or interaction with other people and groups. Sometimes schools and churches are not prepared to welcome them, and so they are excluded from many activities that would enrich their lives or be enriched by them. When they are together, they realise that they are not alone or not to be blamed, but their condition needs to be understood so they can count on help to face the frightening world around them.
In case you live with a person with ASD or want to create a welcoming environment for them, let me share a few tips. Be aware that noise or light can be quite unbearably painful to them; even music played at fairly acceptable volume. Their repetitive behaviour and gestures, or unwillingness to meet your eye, does not necessarily mean that they would not like to be your friend. They may have no way of interpreting the body language of those around them. They may look like a lonely child, although they themselves may be actively seeking companionship.
I have a friend with Asperger syndrome, who is one of the most caring and artistically gifted people I know. She spends much of her life doing voluntary work with old people - who appreciated her care and concern - but could not hold a paid job because somehow “she didn’t fit into the norm.” She must have been in her 40s before she and her sister heard of Asperger syndrome, and it took her another few years to get the necessary medical assessment, and then a monthly pension. But simply understanding her own condition was a great relief to her.
It is very important to understand ASD and raise awareness in schools, churches, families, the medical field and government offices. People on the autism spectrum and their families need to be supported and we are grateful to the WDP committees who partnered with us to donate to the ASPI Centre in response to the World Day of Prayer Slovenia service in 2019. Thank you all very much.
- Áine Pedersen, WDP Slovenia
World Day of Prayer annually brings together Christian women of various denominations and cultures in fellowship, prayer and understanding. It is indeed inspiring to be part of this global ecumenical network that spans 146 countries worldwide.
The World Day of Prayer services, held on the 6th of March 2020 in South Africa, were very special. Along with praying for the women of Zimbabwe, it was the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Women’s World Day of Prayer in South Africa. All Praise be to God!
The first observance of the WDP was held in March 1930, at the Congregational Church at Sea Point in Cape Town. In the same year, a small group of Afrikaans and English-speaking women met in Johannesburg to organize a service. Since then, the movement has grown into a solid organization.
South Africa is known as the “Rainbow Nation”, with 11 official languages. Annually, the program is translated into 8 of the official languages. Many services are inter-cultural, and the same sermon is presented in Afrikaans, English, German and Zulu. An estimate of 1,200 plus services are organized on the Prayer Day – in schools, churches, old age homes, prisons, Bible study groups, and community halls. Approximately 80,000 programs are printed, and a huge amount are electronically distributed. We also assist countries such as Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe with copies of the program. Around 120,000 people attend the services on the particular day. What a blessing this has been again in March 2020. Prayer truly knits hearts together for eternity!
South Africa can look back on the past 90 years with pure bliss and joy, where our Lord has never left or forsaken us. His lovable presence, guidance and mercy remained with us every step of the way.
What was outstanding from the feedback received on the 2020 service, was the enthusiasm for the writer country. Zimbabwe is one of our neighbours, and most families in South Africa know someone from Zimbabwe. Most congregations made special efforts to invite and accommodate families or women from Zimbabwe. Ladies dressed up in colourful Zimbabwean outfits. The Zimbabweans enthusiastically brought food, artwork, and mats for the services. The Dutch Reformed Church in Jacobsdal handed out key holders in the form of Africa, with a little heart above Zimbabwe. The United Church in Hermanus had a lovely display of quilts, depicting a story specifically related to Zimbabwe and made by a known quilter, Helen Granville, who previously lived in Zimbabwe. Many congregations gave voice to a Zimbabwean to tell their own personal stories.
The 90th Jubilee of WWDP South Africa was celebrated with joy and gratitude. Beautiful birthday cakes and cupcakes were baked and served in traditional wooden dishes, and decorated in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag. Dances and choirs highlighted the services. In Klerksdorp, 300 little hessian mats were handed out at the doors, each with a peanut slab inside to celebrate the 90th Jubilee. Beaufort-West treated the ladies with bookmarks in the form of a mat, and a little gift bag with sump, corn, mealies as souvenir.
There was a very positive drive all over to involve the youth. We cannot thank our teachers enough for their willingness and enthusiastic efforts to keep this wonderful movement alive for future generations. In Klerksdorp alone, 11 primary schools and five high schools were involved. In Piet Plessis, prints to be coloured, a sandwich and a cool drink were handed out to every pupil. In Beaufort-west, and other towns, more than 500 teenagers took part in the children’s program. In Underberg, (KwaZulu Natal), young ladies from Pevensy Place (an adult cerebral palsy home) were special guests at the service.
The theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”, had a great impact. It led many to self-reflection and a new commitment to face our own problems and walk in the grace and presence of our Lord and Saviour. The Prayer Day is not only a day of prayer and worship, but it leads to many ongoing projects in communities to support the poor and the needy.
We were blessed to be able to host our Prayer Day before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa. Our hearts go out to everybody that has been affected by the virus, and especially to those who have lost loved ones. May we be united in prayer, and may God Almighty protect us all and be with us.
Life as such is challenging and when we look at the 2021 program, we have “Hope” and can build on a strong foundation.
- Joa Van Aarde, WDP South Africa
The World Young Women Christian Association (W-YWCA) and World Young Men Christian Association (W-YMCA) are launching the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship from November 8-14, 2020. The theme of the week is “Rays of Hope. Creating a resilient community through practical spirituality”.
W-YWCA has a historical relationship with World Day of Prayer, which includes providing leadership for WDP celebrations and active participation in WDP National Committees in many countries. We are, locally and globally, motivating and organizing women and young women for prayers and actions that may impact the communities in the way of peace and justice.
The Week of Prayer and World Fellowship “is an invitation to journey as one, and reflect on how we move from an individual calling to collective transformation, creating resilient communities through practical spirituality. Hope tells us that despite the graveness of a situation, good can happen.
People have acted to transform realities in their community – tackling misinformation, providing physical, financial, mental and spiritual support in innovative ways, while spreading kindness and reaching out to those in need. Everyone has a role to play, everyone must have access to support, every one matters,” declares the joint message from the presidents of World YWCA and World YMCA.
The “Rays of Hope” booklet features daily reflections from several ecumenical partners, including World Day of Prayer International Committee. The booklet is available in English, Spanish and French. The Week of Prayer ends with an online service on Friday the 13th of November at 16:00 Geneva time that will be live streamed on both organizations’ Facebook pages. You may visit the World YWCA or World YMCA to join the service.
Through the Week, we will breathe together in solidarity during the current pandemic that is taking away our breathing capacity. We will learn about the young women in Nepal involved in social transformation and fellowship. When addressing social injustices in our communities, we hear the call to action in Jesus’ question - “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6-7).
The "Rays of Hope" contemplate that finding peace and sharing kindness keep our hope alive. In the world that women and girls and men and boys are screaming, crying out, demanding safety and protection from violence, it is urgent to weave the fabrics of support and transform fear into strong vulnerability and loving trust.
Let us regain our breath by praying together the Blessing of Day 1 by Elaine Neuenfeldt:
Breathe in this blessing: consider how you might influence ONE life.
As you breathe out, speak a blessing on those around you.
God bless our world, our habitat.
Enable us to respect and treat our earth with the dignity it deserves.
Empower us to preserve its resources to provide for all people.
Enable us to protect our people, especially the vulnerable: women and children.
Enable us to do what is good, resist evil and to protect each other from evil.
Enable our men to transform themselves from beneficiaries of patriarchy
to contributors of human dignity.
Inspire our leaders to be transformed for the good of all people.
Enable us to be transformed into Servant Leaders.
Enable us to be open to restore your image in us.
Inspire us to have healing relationships.
Enable us to live with dignity.
Empower us to heal our communities and give us your peace. Amen
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director