During 16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence, the World Council of Churches staff are demonstrating the links between their work and efforts to overcome sexual and gender-based violence under the theme, “From our House to Yours”.
Today, the #16Days contribution is from the General Secretariat, and the important role leadership plays in making equality and justice visible, and violence unacceptable.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit is general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and a Thursdays in Black ambassador.
As you look back on your time as WCC general secretary, since your election in 2009, how has our ecumenical awareness of gender-based violence, and our response to this tragic reality, changed?
Tveit: We have to, as churches, be a very strong counterforce against anybody who accepts rape and gender-based violence but also to seek out how can we really prevent it in our churches. The World Council of Churches has a long history of addressing justice and also gender justice. But we have had a stronger focus over the last 10 years on this huge problem of rape and gender-based violence.
With rape and violence still so prevalent at all levels of society, what do you think are the most important actions churches and ecumenical organisations can take?
Tveit: One great task of the churches is to increase the awareness that this happens. Secondly, that the legal dimension of this is emphasized. Thirdly, that this is really also about changing attitudes, changing behavior over a long period, and churches must be therefore first among those who always pay attention to this and also raise this in our teaching, our teaching of confirmands, our teaching of everybody in the church.
Has observing “Thursdays in Black” made a personal difference to you?
Tveit: It is a very practical issue to remind everybody this is Thursday but it’s also Thursdays in Black: the way you dress, the way you appear, the way you prepare yourself for the day, make the mind focused on this issue. It’s particularly important that we as men do this, and men as leaders, showing that it is our common responsibility and particularly a responsibility for men. I think we as churches can really make a difference. This is about how we live together with dignity, with respect for God’s creation, for the image of God in each one of us. If not we, who should then care for this?
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