A Global Pandemic of Gender-Based Violence
The World Council of Churches Thursdays in Black Ambassadors issued a Joint Message on Gender-based violence, Sexual Abuse and Faith Communities. As a signatory of the document, I found it important for us, as ambassadors and leaders in the WCC and in our churches, to speak together on the challenges in faith communities and the ways in which silence contributes to perpetuating the very issues we are attempting to eliminate. The Thursdays in Black campaign is an opportunity for member churches of the WCC to join in raising awareness and to act to eliminate these issues.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. For one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. These numbers indicate what has always been acknowledged – gender-based violence is at pandemic proportions around the globe.
In 2021, the World Health Organization named gender-based violence a public health issue noting that “GBV has significant and long-lasting impacts on physical and mental health including injury, unintended pregnancy and pregnancy complications, sexually transmitted infections , HIV, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even death.”
The increase in digital communication is a particularity emerging from these days of response and living through the COVID-19 pandemic. While the digital space has been lauded for connecting us, it has also been a space where online sexual abuse and harassment is flourishing. As the need to advocate for digital justice increases, this must be accompanied by the need to advocate for practices and policies that will ensure all are safe in the spaces created in the digital realm.
The ambassadors called attention to digital justice in their statement and to the abuses of trust and called on faith communities and organizations to “clearly and definitively commit to overcome sexual and gender-based violence beginning in our own places of prayer and our structures of service.”
The joint message was signed by 26 ambassadors. The Thursdays in Black initiative continues to raise awareness and advocacy in global community. The Global Ministries community is invited to be active participants in the commitment to see a world where rape and violence are no more. Whether in virtual spaces, in our faith communities or in their homes individuals should be able to live with freedom, dignity and respect, unafraid to live in the wholeness of their being. The fourth quarter Global Ministries focus on Thursdays in Black is an invitation to join the global community in the quest for gender justice and in raising awareness about gender-based violence. The Thursdays in Black campaign is a way for all of us to connect with partners around the world to amplify the call to justice on behalf of millions whose lives are affected daily by this global pandemic of gender-based violence.
|Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries |