“The world is calling upon the faith leaders to use their power for justice for the excluded and discriminated against, and for the exploited planet earth,” says Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, the deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“Of particular concern for us today…a global phenomenon, is when the gender-based violence is happening in our own churches and homes,” said Phiri.
Phiri was speaking on Gender Justice on 1 July with Indian theologian the Rev. Dr. Philip Vinod Peacock on justice from the experience of Africa and Asia. at the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), meeting in the eastern German city of Leipzig from 29 June to 7 July.
“Sexual and any form of violence against minorities and marginalized groups of people is about power and control,” said Phiri who is in charge of Public Witness and Diakonia at the WCC and a former academic theologian in South Africa from Malawi.
“The time of normalizing the oppression of the minorities in our churches is over,” she said.
“We are now leading by example by protecting those who are not able to speak for themselves or those whose voices are not listened to. Let your voices be heard in your countries and in international spaces as you speak out for justice.”
Campaigns such as “Thursdays in Black”, observed at this WCRC General Council are a significant symbol of solidarity to end any form violence in the church and society she noted.
Refusing to join conspiracy of silence
They are, said Phiri, an example of refusing to join the conspiracy of silence over sexual and gender-based violence in the church and in Christian homes.
In a world marked by injustice and discrimination, churches need to recognize how they intertwine with power structures, if they are to promote justice and solidarity asserted Phiri.
The former director of the Centre for Constructive Theology at the University of KwaZulu Natal, in Pietermaritzburg said gender oppression permeates all sectors of life and interacts with other forms of oppression such as class, race, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation.
“Sexual and any form of violence against minorities and marginalized groups of people is about power and control,” said Phiri.
Human trafficking is increasing, she said, and many children and women migrants and refugees face sexual and gender-based violence in camps, on their way to new countries.
“While the message of the gospel is about inclusivity, as communities of faith, we are not speaking out loud enough to stop the killing of people on the basis of their sexual orientation,” she rued.