16 Days of Activism
Republished with permission from New Times. Read the full edition here: https://sa.uca.org.au/new-times/new-times-print-edition/
Written by Dr Deidre Palmer, UCA President
As I write this article I have heard the horrifying news of a woman murdered by her partner outside the Alice Springs hospital. As you read this article it is more than likely that this week you have heard the terrible news of a woman being murdered by her partner or ex-partner.
In Australia, on average, one woman per week is murdered by her partner or ex-partner. One in three women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime and since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of domestic and family violence have been increasing.
Behind these horrifying statistics are women, children, their families and friends, whose lives have been shattered by the trauma of domestic and family violence. There are many other women and children, who have survived, but live in situations of abuse and on-going control and intimidation.
As a Church and as followers of Jesus we are called to take action in ways that call out violence as a sin against God and a breach of the love, trust and care, that Christ embodies and calls us to model.
In the Uniting Church and our agencies there are many inspiring women and men whose experience of the call of God and Christian discipleship has led them to advocate for justice, equality, dignity and respect for all people.
Most recently the Uniting Church’s expression of this advocacy has been through our participation in ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.’ This global campaign supported by the United Nations and the World Council of Churches, begins each year on the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women (November 25) and concludes on Human Rights Day (December 10).
Our National Assembly invited 16 women to write a prayer to highlight the devastating impacts of gender-based violence, to offer pastoral support for those affected, and to raise up the vision of equality, respect, dignity and fullness of life that God intends for us all. I commend these prayers to you. They are available on the uniting church assembly website: uniting.church/16-days-of-activism.
A key focus area in addressing gender-based violence is gender equality and respect for women. This has been a major feature of the Uniting Church since our beginning, grounded in our Biblical foundations.
The narrative that has shaped women and men in the Uniting Church is of a God, who calls each of us personally into our fullest humanity, women and men, beloved of God, created in God’s image.
At the heart of the Uniting Church’s understanding of God and our shared humanity is an embrace of the liberating word expressed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, in whom, God calls us to abundant life. Abundant living can be seen when we are free to express our God-given gifts, to live in relationships that are life-giving and loving, based on equality, trust and mutual respect.
As a social worker and a Christian educator, I have worked with women and children whose lives are diminished by domestic and family violence. Their sense of their own identity and sense of safety and trust have been undermined by those closest to them, who should have been trustworthy and affirming. I have also witnessed the toll on extended family and friends.
My hope that I want to share with all of you is that homes are safe havens, places where we can find peace, laughter, affirmation of who we are, and a celebration of our gifts and humanity.
Our faith communities must also be such places – compassionate, attentive and attuned to the ways our Gospel message is communicated and lived, aware of the impacts of what we teach and preach on the lives of people who have been affected by gender-based violence. The narratives we share need to offer healing, hope and flourishing for them.
Responding to gender-based violence is a whole-of-Church action. But we are not alone.
We greatly benefit as a Church from the professional expertise of our church and government agencies.
If you are reading this and you are one of those professionals, a social worker, a counsellor, a health care worker, a police officer, a lawyer, thank you for the ways you contribute to the safety and well-being of women and children in these situations.
If you are reading this, and thinking, I’m not a professional, what can I do? Know that we can all play a part in creating communities, congregations, homes, extended networks that are places of safety, healing and hope for those who have experienced gender-based violence.
As the people of God, embodying God’s compassion, justice and liberation, Christ calls us to be advocates for an end to gender-based violence.
In following this call, as the Uniting Church we don’t just say no to violence, we must continuously seek to end it.
We are called to contribute to and shape communities and relationships where all people are able to live the abundant life which is God’s vision for us all.