In August of last year I was invited to join an IMA World Health delegation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While I had been to Mbandaka and areas where Disciples have historic connections, I had not yet been to the heart of the conflict zone—in the Eastern part of Congo, where the atrocities against women are still occurring. I met some of these incredibly courageous women during my visits to Goma, Bukavu, and Mwenga. Because IMA supports the Panzi Hospital and Foundation—one of only a couple of hospitals offering reconstructive surgery for women rape victims—we were even able to meet the legendary Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned doctor in the Congo who has performed literally thousands of reconstructive surgeries to women in the Congo after they have been violated and mutilated. I was in awe just to be in his presence.
Through the Ushindi Program, WoC and thus all of us as Disciples are a major part of the work IMA is engaged in there. The Ushindi Program offers medical assistance to women victims of sexual and gender based violence, along with psycho-social care, legal assistance, and economic/livelihoods recovery assistance. It is a truly remarkable and cutting edge program. Gifts to the Women’s Empowerment Fundof WoC have contributed to the Ushindi Program.
We were so touched by our visit to Eastern Congo. I was able to meet the women, sit with them, speak with them, and sing and pray with them. We wept, laughed, and embraced. I will never forget it. I came home determined even more to do something about the issues confronting them---but also to help educate others about sexual and gender based violence. To think that it only happens to the Congolese is simply naïve and inaccurate. One in three women in the U.S. have been victims of sexual and gender based violence. 1 in 3. Sadly, domestic violence and other forms of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) are a quiet curse in our own homes, schools and communities, and an important health issue facing all communities.
As a result, IMA World Health has spearheaded a U.S.-based campaign on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) called We Will Speak Out. WeWillSpeakOut.US is a faith-based coalition. As one of IMA’s members, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), represented by WoC, is a part of this coalition to raise awareness about sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and mobilize the faith community to take action. WeWillSpeakOut.US envisions churches joining together to take a stand, teaching their congregations how to support community resources and get survivors the help and support they need for healing. There is strength in numbers, and together we can raise awareness and take action to change the culture of violence that causes so much physical, emotional and spiritual suffering.
The United Nations has designated Sunday, November 25 as the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.” All around the world, people will be taking action to raise awareness about the global epidemic of violence that affects all of us. WeWillSpeakOut.US is calling all congregations across the world to dedicate Sunday, November 25, 2012, as SPEAK OUT SUNDAY to dialogue, teach and pray about sexual and gender based violence locally and around the world. This important day also coincides with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, observed from November 25 through December 11, 2012.
WWSO.US members have also joined forces to write a set of thoughtful, Scripture-based sermons (featuring writing by WoC Executive Director Amy Gopp) to help pastors and other faith leaders engage their congregations about this delicate but critical issue. A guide for Christian congregations is available online at http://www.wewillspeakout.us/sermon-guide. For more resources, visit http://www.wewillspeakout.us/, and follow WWSO.US on Twitter (username wewillspeakoutUS) and Facebook (username wewillspeakoutUS).
Thank you for speaking out. Thank you, as always, for your courageous compassion.
This Week's Responses
Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Capital Area, hurricane damage recovery (3)
Pennsylvania, hurricane damage recovery
Utah, church facility damage