Study focuses on bible verses to find solution to gender-based violence

A study by a New Zealand think tank has put biblical verses under the microscope, in a bid to uncover the potential of using churches in Samoa to tackle the scourge of violence against women. 

The New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (N.Z.I.P.R.) study titled “Church Responses to Gender-based Violence Against Women” was done by lead researcher Dr Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko from the Piula Theological College, who was supported by five other academics from Samoan and New Zealand universities.

According to the recently released study, there are international case studies which suggests that biblical texts can have an impact on attitudes and actions within church congregation members towards gender-based violence (G.B.V.).

And due to the influence that churches have in Samoa, the study is of the view that “a biblical and faith-based approach is well-placed to promote social change in Samoa”.

The study highlighted two factors that make biblical texts significant: the tendency by the churches to dismiss the issue due to the view that it is not relevant, and the options that can be considered if the churches are seen as being part of the problem or the solution.

Examples of bible texts and how they are interpreted by a reader were then used in the study to support the proposition of the authors.

“There are some biblical verses that are widely used to justify or excuse violence against women. However, at the same time that the selective misuse of biblical texts contributes to the problem, there is also recognition that these interpretations should be questioned and challenged,” stated the study.

“A positive biblical message promoted by the churches can, and should, be offered as an effective response to the misuse of biblical texts. Texts that affirm the dignity and sacred value of all people, as created in the image of God, and highlight the destructive consequences that violence creates for individual, families and communities deserve particular attention.”

The study has three main sections: the first section is on case studies on bible studies which were developed and piloted over the duration of the project to get participants to discuss violence against women; the second section provided background on violence against women in Samoa and its connection to the churches; and the third section is based on discussions from a June 2018 conference in Auckland, where a “creative approach” which was adopted by the lead researcher as part of the research project is discussed.

The other academics who worked with Dr Mercy in the study include Dr Ramona Boodoosingh (National University of Samoa), Dr Melanie Beres (University of Otago), Dr Caroline Blyth (Auckland University), Dr Tess Patterson (University of Otago), and Professor David Tombs (University of Otago).

The N.Z.I.P.R. incorporates a wide network of researchers, research institutions and other sources of expertise in the Pacific Islands. The University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology and Otago University lead the N.Z.I.P.R. 

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