22 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland: WCC central committee vice-moderator Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley speaks during a Women's meeting at the World Council of Churches central committee, gathered in Geneva on 21-27 June 2023 for its first full meeting following the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe in 2022.


What compelled you to become an ambassador for Thursdays in Black?

Rev. Hyde Riley: Im really proud to be an ambassador in the fight against gender-based violence. I find gender-based violence to be extremely concerning because it is so pervasive and so destructive. 

Gender-based violence has the potential to impact anyone and everyone, regardless of where youve from, your race, your sex, your religion, your social status. I mean, anyone can be impacted by gender-based violence and we recognize that people all over the world are so impacted, especially women and girls.

Gender-based violence denies human dignity and it affects our humanity, and therefore one cannot tolerate any action that denies our dignity and our humanity. It impacts peoples physical and mental health. So many persons are absolutely devastated and destroyed as a result of the violence perpetrated against them. It impacts our productivity. People very often have to remain away from work and are unable to focus properly because of the emotional, mental, and physical harm that has been meted out against them. 

We also recognize that gender-based violence also constrains choice. People are sometimes in situations where they are not able to make basic human choices, and, sadly, it is often shrouded in secrecy, because when victims come forward, they are twice victimized, and so it is really, really a very destructive act that is perpetrated against persons.

How do we overcome gender-based violence?

Rev. Hyde Riley: Overcoming gender-based violence demands and requires the participation of all of us. We have to examine how we understand and how we use power, because very often we see power as power over”. We exercise power over others in very destructive ways. I think we also have to recognize that gender-based violence has become very structured, and so we have to re-examine the institutions that actively justify and entrench these kinds of behavior. We have to pay attention to the culture of silence. 

Gender-based violence is not a private or personal issue but we often give the impression that this is what it is, and so very often people feel the need to keep quiet about gender-based violence because they sometimes also feel that they will not get the kind of support that they want if they speak out.

We also need to engage in greater advocacy. More of us need to come together, and say enough is enough,and we also need to create more safe spaces for persons, so that they will have a forum in which they can speak about what impacts them, and just to be, to be, and to become who they are. I would also say that more of us need to model the love and the example of Jesus Christ, to embody Christ in all that we are and do, and I believe this would go a far way to help us overcome this very serious.

How can Thursdays in Black be a part of the solution? 

Rev. Hyde Riley: The Thursdays in Black campaign, I believe, has great potential in terms of the solution to this issue. For one, we can increase awareness. We can participate in educating persons. What I am doing now, I am hoping to raise awareness. We are able to give visibility to this issue so more and more persons can recognize that this is not just a private matter, and I think we cant underestimate the impact of collective advocacy across the world. Its powerful when many persons from different parts of the world come together, and say enough is enough,and say no to gender-based violence. So I believe that this campaign has tremendous potential to impact this issue and to improve the lives of so many persons who are impacted. 

As a Thursdays in Black ambassador, I really hope I can help to raise awareness of the issues, inspire resistance to gender-based violence, and encourage positive action that is transformative, action that is liberating and ultimately serves to reduce the practice of and to end gender-based violence. I believe that we are hopeful that, as a result of our collective effort, there will come a time when gender-based violence will be no more. So please join to change attitudes and practices so that every person, everywhere feels safe and respected. We would like everyone, from within our churches, from outside of our churches, to come onboard and be a part of this campaign.

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