Breaking the Silence
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)
Thursdays in Black in Africa
Within the Africa Region there have been several initiatives taken for the capacity building of women leadership and the promotion of campaigns geared towards ending sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The World Day of Prayer national activities in Ghana are a part of the Gender and Women’s Programme of the Christian Council of Ghana. Apart from the WDP celebration every first Friday of March, the Council is also involved in organizing capacity building events for women leaders. In 2018, various leadership seminars were held with special attention given to SGBV topics and issues. During a training session in Abokobi, Ghana, participants signed on to join the Thursdays in Black campaign.
In Zambia, the WDP committee hosted the 2nd Sub-Regional conference for Southern Africa under the theme “Pray without Ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:12 -17). It was attended by 73 participants including WDP members from committees in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia.
At the meeting it was decided that each country present would commit to and observe the Thursdays in Black Campaign.
The WDPIC regional representative from Africa – Joyce Larko Steiner, was present to facilitate and share materials and news from the WDPIC office.
Learn more about the Thursdays in Black campaign here.
- Joyce Larko Steiner, WDPIC Africa Regional Rep.
World Day of Prayer Lebanon committee members joined the campaign “Thursdays in Black" during our October meeting. We wore black and discussed how violence against women and children goes undetected as there are no laws to protect them in our country. Around the table, we shared some stories. One of the members, who represents the National Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), on our WDP committee shared the following stories.
A 25 year old Lebanese woman who had left her house after a lot of suffering brought about by her husband. She did not have anyone to help her as her parents were very poor and her father was very sick. She resorted to a counseling center that transferred her case to the National YWCA shelter. There, she was helped to file a case of marital separation and gain custody of her daughter. She was assisted by psychologists to reestablish her self-esteem, after which she followed the “Nurse Aid training” program which helped her find a job and become independent.
She also shared the story of a 26 year old Lebanese woman, divorced and a mother of two. She lived in a very close-minded society, where a divorced woman is not accepted. She suffered from all kinds of psychological pressures, deprivations, and repressions. At one point her own brother tried to kill her. She fled from home and resorted to a Christian organization that assists women in crisis, providing shelter for up to two years. Later, with the help of the National YWCA social worker, she was able to get custody of her daughter who was freed from the abusive father. She got training and was able to find a job and take care of her daughter.
Still today, as we all know, there are women in different parts of the world living in situations of violence but are afraid to talk about their suffering. Sometimes these women simply do not know that there could be better alternatives for their difficult conditions. The stories mentioned above have showed that women can overcome violence when they find community support. However, many stories have very tragic and sad endings. The WDP Committee of Lebanon has supported organizations that help women who suffer violence and abuse through prayer by donating the offerings from WDP services on the first Friday of March, to them.
“Thursdays in Black” can be a good reminder to all of us to take part in helping women and children. Let us pray and act for a world without violence, especially against women and children!
- Maral Barzekian Haidostian, WDPIC Regional Rep of the Middle East
The World Council of Churches invited the World Day of Prayer to participate in the Global Consultation commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women which took place in Kingston, Jamaica from October 2nd to 6th 2018. Four (4) WDP representatives were part of 73 participants and presenters from 45 denominations from all the continents.
The consultation was about gender justice. The focus was on celebrating our gifts, visiting the wounds and developing a vision to end gender injustice.*
We’d like to share with you some stories that touched our hearts:
On Thursday, we went to the Nelson Mandela Park to make public our statement for a life free of violence. We joined WCC in renewing the call for the Thursdays in Black Campaign. A campaign that raises awareness by wearing black – as the color of women’s resilience, agency and personal efforts to resist rape and gender based violence.
In conclusion, the WDP representatives participated in every session and made the WDP movement known. We showed up and showed out.
*For WCC press releases on the Consultation, visit their website here.
Article and pictures by:
Fanya Burford-Berry, WDP USA
Patricia Newell Pennant, WDP Jamaica
Ruth Phillips, WDP Barbados & WDPIC Caribbean & North America Regional Representative
Cornelia Trommer-Klimpke, WDP Germany
We Embrace You Mother Earth
Ripples of WDP 2018
From June 13th - 17th women church leaders participated in the Certificate Course of Ecumenical Formation for Gender Justice. The course was organized by Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India in partnership with Women’s Fellowship of Church of South India and Australian Church Women Inc. Together we sang the song above as we blessed a tree in our vicinity and mother Earth. We danced and celebrated life by affirming ‘All God’s Creation is Very Good.’
World Day Prayer (WDP) 2018 had rippling effects throughout India. Not only did women church leaders commemorate WDP, and come to learn about Suriname, they also renewed their commitment to reflect their faith in action. An eco-pilgrimage was organized in a Visthar campus, a secular civil society organization committed to social justice and peace.
During the eco-pilgrimage we visited different eco-sanctuaries including an abandoned well, which we blessed together. The well is a symbol of life in Indian traditions as water sustains life. Indian women play a crucial role in daily water management. They suffer the most when wells dry up and rivers get polluted. They are forced to walk longer distances to find water and face gender based violence on unsafe roads. Visiting the well in Visthar helped us renew our spirituality to share the unheard stories of the indigenous, rural and urban women who make an effort to heal the wounds of mother Earth, like the rural women of the Himalayan region who spearheaded the Chipko Andolan, a nonviolent social and ecological movement aimed at protecting trees slated for government-backed logging. The Hindi word chipko means “to hug” or “to cling to” and reflects the demonstrators’ primary tactic of embracing the trees to impede the loggers.
Participants of the Certificate Course for Gender Justice included 33 women leaders, man pastors, and missionaries. Men were also involved because, as pastors and missionaries, they need to be empowered to build inclusive communities that can end gender based violence. We also wanted to create awareness among them about how prayer movements like WDP can be used to promote gender justice.
This course provided a scope not only to explore strategies and discover methods to deal with the pandemic of gender based violence in India, but also explore the nexus between ecological devastation and violence against women and children. While environmental degradation affects women most, rural and indigenous women who are aware about conserving nature and environmental issues, have been able to make a significant difference to the environment in tangible ways. They are inspiring examples in water conservation, waste management, energy efficiency at home and family planning. Women environmental activists have also proven to change the status of women, particularly in rural communities, creating empowerment opportunities beyond the environmental benefits.
This movement of ‘Informed Prayer & Prayerful Action’ provides Indian churches and women’s fellowships in churches the opportunity to promote the ‘Thursdays in Black Campaign’ to create a ‘World Free of Rape and Sexual Abuse’. Women and girls are at high risk of getting raped in India and many children face sexual abuse including boys. World Day of Prayer is helping equip church leaders and communities with the awareness to promote gender justice in India.
- Moumita Biswas, WDPIC Asia Regional Rep.
Thursdays in Black!
“Hope is not the expectation that things will be better tomorrow; hope is the capacity to do the right thing today.” – Mitri Raheb, Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem
The World Day of Prayer movement brings people together in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
As we ecumenically prepare the March celebration, we hear about the situations of women and girls around the world, and we realize how close to home those stories are.
We pray with them for the ending of their suffering, we commit to promote awareness, we advocate for women’s human rights, we support the survivors of violence who are among us, and we raise funds to empower them to live in a world without rape and gender based violence.
At our International Meeting, in August 2017, in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, we wore black to educate ourselves about the Thursdays in Black campaign and to show our support! The campaign has traveled to the local communities, where we join others involved in the campaign started by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Thursdays in Black grew out of the WCC Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998), in which the stories of rape as a weapon of war, abuse, violence, and many tragedies that grow outward from such violence became all the more visible. However, also visible was women’s resilience, agency and personal efforts to resist such violations.*
As Fulata Moyo explained to the WDP community, “in this campaign, black is used as color of resistance. Let us journey together for a world of gender justice and peace.” (WDPIC 2015 Journal, page 51)
The campaign is simple but profound. Wear black on Thursdays. Wear a pin to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of violence.*
We encourage you to join the Thursdays in Black campaign and to share its message.
Here are some steps that you may want to take:
(*Extracted from Churches’ Advocacy against Sexual, Gender-Based Violence, WCC Thursdays in Black pamphlet.)
Members of the National Committee in Australia took a stand at their Biennial Conference, in Brisbaine, to raise awareness on domestic violence. They learned about the Thursday in Black Campaign, reported by the members who attended the WDPIC International Meeting in Brazil. Some of the delegates have spent a life time working with women and children affected by domestic violence. “With crossed arms, symbolizing 'no to domestic violence', we have been challenged, to bring about change in all communities, through prayerful action," informed Vicki Marney, WDPIC Pacific Regional Representative and member of the Queensland Committee.
In the Cook Islands, Henrica Marona, WDPIC Pacific Regional Representative, joins all in prayers to end violence of women and girls: “Let us all be strengthened by our theme "All God's Creation is Good." As Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and you will find."
Together We Care for God's creation
Buscando sabedoria para cuidar da criação de Deus
Seeking wisdom to care for God’s creation in Portuguese, written on the conference hall banner, set the context of the International Committee Meeting of World Day of Prayer, held in Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil from August 20-27, 2017. The theme was an invitation to collectively commit our prayer and action towards environment care, which is the focus of the 2018 WDP program written by the Suriname committee.
We had an intense and participatory program. It was collaboratively led by delegates, guests, and the executive committee members. We were 188 participants representing 81 countries. We came together to continue building the WDP movement and make decisions about the international leadership and programs for the next term.
WDP Brazil as hosting country welcomed the participants and gave us a sense of the three frontier states (Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina) with a cultural presentation by a group of young dancers and musicians from Paraguay.
The opening celebration was based on the Suriname worship service with the theme “All God’s creation is very good!” Silvia Regina Lima Silva introduced the Bible Study based on Genesis 1:2.1-4 during the meditation moment and concluded the study on the next day. The hermeneutic perspective that crossed the reflection was hope. The hope proclaimed, affirmed, and experienced in the midst of pain, the denial of life, and in the midst of chaos.
Sarah de Roure gave a presentation on the environmental context and communities in Brazil, telling the stories of the indigenous women in the Amazon and the indiscriminate exploitation of the rain forest through predatory economic practices such as mining, large-scale logging, water and soil contamination by livestock and soybean plantations.
The WDP program is grounded in the Bible, and that always makes the Bible study sessions a key moment in our formation process. Besides Silvia Silva, there were two other theologians guiding the Bible Study. Dora Arce Valentin chose the text of Proverbs 31:10-31 to challenge WDP women to see the potential that this movement can represent globally and locally when wisdom inspires transformation.
Ulrike Bechmann led the Bible study on Luke 14:15-24 introducing the theme of the 2019 program written by WDP Slovenia: “Come – Everything is Ready.” There is a moment of justice - when the poor is empowered to come to the table and the rich to be changed. The slave is an enabler of the transformation and we can ask ourselves, how can WDP be an enabler?
There were two set of workshops. One day the focus was on the theme of the meeting, and the next day was focused on ways to renew and strengthen the WDP movement. Also, twelve small thematic groups were previously formed on a variety of topics to allow for meaningful conversations that would impact WDP action and response in the communities.
A community building session invited the participants to share and pray together. A choir was formed by the participants who sang new songs with the help of the song leaders. Plus, we celebrated the meeting of women from the reformation and WDP women, telling the story of women’s leadership in the past and today. A prayer room where any participant could spend some quite time praying and meditating was set and available at all times.
On Thursday, we wore black in solidarity with the Thursday in Black campaign to say no to rape and violence. It was powerful! We will bring that awareness to our WDP committee and community.
On the last day, the outgoing and newly elected executive members met to pass along information about their region and to encourage the new leadership. The working group on themes and writer countries revised all the submissions received, and based on the areas of concern of the worldwide movement, the urges of our time, the basic structure and capacity of the national committees, the geographic balance, and with prayers, they selected the next five themes and writer countries. The delegates of the selected countries met with the new chairperson and executive director to have a brief overview of the writing process and timeline.
The closing worship service is the moment of entrusting the new leadership with their responsibility and prayers for guidance. The offering collected was dedicated to the Fund for Tomorrow, which enables young women and national committees with limited resources to be part of the international meeting. The committees in Greece, Lebanon, Palestine, Sweden, and Uruguay gave their offering in honor of a leader in their country. To read their stories visit our Honored Women's page.