The World Council of Churches (WCC) is working toward the revival of “Thursdays in Black”, a campaign against sexual and gender-based violence. The emphasis is pertinent to the theme of the WCC’s upcoming assembly: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”.
On 31 October 2013, during the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, participants will be encouraged to wear black. Through this simple gesture, participants are invited to be part of a global movement urging an end to violence against women.
Thursdays in Black was started by the WCC in the 1980s as a form of peaceful protest against rape and violence – especially taking place during wars and conflicts. The campaign focuses on ways through which individuals may challenge attitudes that cause rape and violence.
“Thursdays in Black”, according to Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, WCC programme executive for Women in Church and Society, is a “united global expression of the desire for safe communities where we can all walk safely without fear of being raped, shot at, beaten up, verbally abused and discriminated against due to one’s gender or sexual orientation.”
“Through this campaign we want to accompany our sisters, who bear the scars of violence, invisible and visible, in Syria, Palestine and Israel, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and the whole world, where women’s bodies remain a battlefield, whether in armed conflict or so-called ‘peaceful’ situations,” adds Mbano-Moyo.
“Through this campaign we are demanding a world free of rape and violence!”
The Thursdays in Black campaign is significant for the women and men’s pre-assembly events in Busan, where issues related to violence against women will be in focus, instigating varied reflections from theological, ethical, legal, spiritual, social and political perspectives. The pre-assembly programmes will take place on 28 and 29 October.
Thursdays in Black has influenced several church and ecumenical initiatives in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. The campaign was further strengthened by the “Women in Black” campaign born out of women-to-women solidarity visits to Serbia and Croatia during the Balkan war in the 1990s. Through this initiative, Serbian women called people to join them in speaking against the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Thursday in Black also has a link with Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a movement of mothers who protested against the policy of having dissidents "disappeared", a term used to describe people killed during the political violence in Argentina between the 1970s and 1980s. These mothers walked around Plazo de Mayo in Buenos Aires, every Thursday, to register their protest to the responsible authorities.
The Thursdays in Black campaign is currently observed in South Africa by the Diakonia Council of Churches and the Christian AIDS Bureau of Southern Africa (CABSA), ecumenical partners of the WCC’s project Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) and the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+).
The WCC will continue to work with its partner organizations to revive the Thursdays in Black campaign. Partners include CABSA, We Will Speak Out Coalition, the Lutheran World Federation, the Fellowship of the Least Coin, the United Methodist Women and the World YWCA, among others.