“Violence against women in all its form a sin”

The distorted interpretation of the Bible perpetuates stereotypes that enable the cycle of violence against women and girls to continue. 

So says Reverend James Bhagwan, the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), during the European Union-United Nations spotlight initiative panel discussion at the Taumeasina Island Resort on Tuesday. 

Drawing an example from the scriptures in the Book of Ephesians “Wives obey your husband…”, Rev. Bhagwan said the big challenge for the region is how to use the scriptures to break the cycle of violence rather than fuel it. 

“We are connected by our Christian faith and also in our role as faith communities as agents of social change, in particular the potential for faith communities to be agents of societal transformation in eliminating violence against women and girls,” he said.  

“For too long, faith communities have been part of the structural violence enacted upon women of all ages and social status in the Pacific. 

“Patriarchal structures of leadership and decision making, biblical interpretation attitudes towards women and faith communities have underpinned the psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and economic violence that women in the Pacific have had to endure.”

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Rev. Bhagwan said violence against women in all its form is a sin. “It goes against the Christian understanding of God’s intention for human relationship. 

“Church leaders are engaging across the region in challenging cultural norms that perpetuate the root causes of violence against women. 

In order to be effective in this work, he said, the region’s theological approach must be prophetic in terms of speaking truth to power both in the church and the wider society.

“It must be pastoral in terms of trauma counselling, working with local church communities to address violence against women and children, as well as the issue of masculinity and violence.

“It must be practical, a consolidated, consistent and strategic approach from grassroots congregation to the leadership that includes theological colleges and the different departments of fellowship in our churches that addresses the issue of leadership and participation in both decision making in church institutions in terms of ministry and worship.” 

Rev. Bhagwan said practically there’s more to eliminate in violence against women that needs to be done in the area of structural violence, particularly in women’s participation in ministry and leadership in faith communities.  

“The Pacific conference of churches under its commission on mission and theology will be convening the first commission on the status of women in Pacific churches to take place in 2020 with a follow up in 2022. 

“It is hoped that this commission will be a sustained intervention for churches as a method of monitoring truth telling accountability, advocating not only gender-based violence, but also structural violence including women’s participation and leadership in churches.” 

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