Churches must fight GBV atrocities – Mmereki-Burns

16th April 2018
A PLEAD TO THE CHURCH: Bonolo Mmereki-Burns vocal against gender based violence Source:The Midweek Sun

Churches that remain silent in the face of gender injustice are renouncing their role, says the fourth Vice President under Gender and Development at the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) Bonolo Mmereki-Burns. Addressing a workshop organised by the Anglican Diocese of Botswana Guilds, Mmereki-Burns urged faith communities to take a lead role in fighting gender-based violence (GBV). She said while the church is a place of love, acceptance, healing and forgiveness, it also has a duty to speak boldly about atrocities most of which are committed towards women and girls such as sexual, emotional and physical abuse, early marriages even if it has been taboo to do so.

Themed, ‘Beyond 16 days of Activism,’ the workshop was held at the St Augustine Theological School on Saturday. “To be silent about GBV is to be folded together with those who carry out such heinous crimes. Silence is not a virtue, it is a vice two times compounded, because it contains both indifference to the victims and complicity with the destroyers,” Burns said. She said the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, not an enabler or to conceal perpetrators. Burns told attendants that it is important to understand the biblical text in its original context and to know what it means in today’s context. “There are no verses in the Bible that overtly condone domestic abuse.

To the contrary, it is made clear that God hates violence and relationships must be driven by selflessness, grace and love.” However, she acknowledged that the Bible continues to be misinterpreted by societies to provide men with opportunities to carry out gender-based violence on their women and children. She outlined several different parts of the Bible commonly referred to: first are the verses telling women to submit to their husbands and male authority, under the doctrine known as male headship. Second are verses that say God hates divorce. And third are those in 1 Peter that tell women to submit to husbands in a very particular way, as they follow instructions to slaves to submit to even "harsh masters."

But Burns said it is crucial for the Bible to be read in light of the culture it was produced in. “We have inherited a Christian legacy and traditions that view women in an unhelpful and shameful way, and because we are not critically engaged with that theology, we continue to perpetuate that theology in our context,” she said. Meanwhile Detective Inspector Moses Patrick of Central Police noted with sadness that cases of GBV have continued to rise, in some cases resulting in loss of lives and if one survives, they are left with life long mental disorders, stigma and physical disabilities. He revealed that since the beginning of the year until March, Central Police recorded 242 cases related to GBV including six for rape, one murder and 85 for common assault. He said 104 perpetrators have so far been arrested. However, the detective added that the figures are only a fraction of what is happening on the ground as most cases go unreported.

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