Moravian women pastors and evangelists have said: “Enough is enough: no more rape and violence against women." Women leaders of the church marched in the streets of Mbeya town in Tanzania wearing black on Thursday to officially launch the Thursdays in Black global campaign to stand against rape and violence.
Captain Janet Masangano, who works at the Gender Desk of the regional police, expressed her gratitude to the women church leaders saying, “I thank you for aiding the government in fighting to end sexual and gender-based violence, on your part as women but more so as women church leaders.” She encouraged other religious leaders to join in the campaign.
The women clerics were attending a week-long conference in Teku Hall, Mbeya to discuss, among other things, the challenges facing women ministers.
Rev. Dr Mary Kategile, organizer of the conference, urged the women to break the silence surrounding sexual and gender-based violence, saying that “issues are usually treated with secrecy, victims largely remain silent for fear of stigmatization. By launching Thursdays in Black, we are also saying we will speak out and be silent no more.”
The 200-plus attendants were drawn from all provinces of the Moravian Church in Tanzania and neighboring countries to equip them with knowledge of current issues that affect the church, and to give them a platform to share their experiences and challenges in the ministry.
Speaking on the role of pastors and evangelists in ending stigmatization against people living with HIV, Rev. Pauline Wanjiru Njiru, World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy regional coordinator for Eastern Africa, urged women to be on the frontline to fight HIV-associated stigma and discrimination.
During the conference, each participant received “Treatment Adherence and Faith Healing in the Context of HIV and AIDS in Africa: Training Manual for Religious Leaders” in Kiswahili, a 2019 WCC publication. The women appreciated the manual and acknowledged that it will go a long way in equipping them to teach their congregations on the importance of treatment adherence and understanding of faith healing.
The conference received media coverage throughout the country, and was reported on two national televisions, two newspapers and two blogs.
The conference was officially opened by the lead bishop Conrad Nguvumali of Rukwa Province. Bishop Nguvumali triggered discussion when he expressed shock that so many women were ordained, saying that, in his province the decision to ordain women had not yet arrived. He used a phrase to indicate the time has not yet come but discussion is underway: “The water is on the fire but it has not yet come to boil.”
His comments may have influenced the participants who called for the provinces to ordain women and for the Moravian Church in Tanzania to have one constitution.