India: domestic violence denounced from the pulpit
Pastors in Kolkata stood up against gender based violence as part of an initiative supported by BMS World Mission
Domestic violence was the theme of many sermons preached in Kolkata, India, recently (27 November). It is an issue that is increasingly being recognised and discussed thanks to a BMS-supported project that is part of the Dignity initiative to combat gender based violence (GBV).
Working with local partners, BMS worker Brian Leitch co-ordinated two training events for pastors to help them prepare for the Sunday. The pastors have not only received a background in the issue of domestic violence but also a theological overview of John 8: 1-11 (Jesus and the woman accused of adultery), so they could preach on the passage in relation to GBV.
The pastors also received a letter signed by three prominent church leaders which speaks out against domestic violence and urges churches to stand up against it. The letter has been sent out to a wider circle of ministers by text message. The hope was that around 50 to 60 pastors would read out the letter to their churches this Sunday and encourage their congregations to take a stand on this important issue.
Brian has been part of pioneering GBV training with churches in Kolkata for the last 18 months and is seeing a slow realisation among churches that domestic violence is a problem not only in wider society but also in churches today. A survey BMS and its partners conducted of church members who have attended domestic violence training found that 39 per cent knew of a woman in their congregations being abused by her husband or another person.
'Pastors are increasingly appreciating that this is not just a secondary issue to their normal church practice, but this is a huge issue related to their discipleship and how they are shepherding their flocks,' said Brian. 'If you are a disciple of Christ, you can’t beat your wife. If there is violence in your church, then something is seriously wrong.'
One senior pastor Brian knows said a year ago, 'There is no violence in my church. If there was, I would know about it.' A few months later he stood up at a training event run by BMS and its partners and admitted: 'I know there is violence in the church and we need to deal with it.'
BMS has planned more awareness events and training in Kolkata during the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (25 November to 10 December).
Around 10 churches received training last weekend (26 to 27 November) on how to respond to domestic violence. There is a domestic violence awareness event on 9 December, which will be attend not only by churches but schools too as BMS and our partners seek to encourage a change of attitude towards the issue among young people.
On 10 December, as part of Human Rights Day, there will be a pastors’ prayer breakfast focused on human rights, the character of God and Christian responses to domestic violence.
It is going to take time to change attitudes and inspire actions. But what is happening over the next two weeks is part of a long-term strategy to encourage the Church in Kolkata to recognise GBV is a problem and that they need to do something about it.
Has your church taken a stand against GBV? Find out how you can by supporting the Dignity initiative.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.