Churches’ move will bolster anti-violence campaign
The churches’ move to incorporate anti-violence advocacy in their sermons and religious activities is a positive development. Gender-based violence and child abuse are a scourge on our society. Their prevalence is a national shame and we should do all we can to stamp them out. They have no place in the new Fiji where laws have been strengthened to protect our women and children. In this anti-violence campaign, Government cannot do it alone. It requires the support of everyone to send out a powerful message that violence against women and children is unacceptable.
It is therefore heartening that the Fiji Council of Churches has joined the battle against violence. Previously, the Government and non-governmental organisations like the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre have been at the forefront of the campaign. Now they have been joined by the Fiji Council of Churches. This is a significant move because churches have a powerful influence on their members. The Break the Silence observance was launched in several churches last Sunday where ecclesiastical leaders spoke on the issue and members prayed for a genuine change of heart in society’s attitude towards women and children. People must realise that those who inflict violence or hurt women and children are not only breaking the law, they are also committing a grave sin from a spiritual perspective. As far as children are concerned, abusers need to take heed of the warning in the Holy writs. In the Holy Bible, Psalm of the Old Testament says “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3). Later, Jesus Christ warns in the New Testament: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Both our law and God’s law will hold abusers responsible and they will be punished accordingly.
This is the message that needs to get out. That violence of any form against the innocent and vulnerable of society cannot be tolerated. If this goes against the grain of any culture, so be it. The law in our statute books overrides other considerations whether they are culturally-based or otherwise.
The involvement of churches is set to lift the public awareness on this serious issue. In some cultures the gender, child and sex issues are usually not talked about openly. It is regarded as taboo. Those days are gone now.
There is a definite shift in public opinion that this problem had been allowed to grow for too long causing serious social problems.
Openly discussing this issue is long overdue. It should take precedence over cultural sensitivities and considerations. Churches, through their ministries, can help spread the message to as many people as possible – that violence is evil and cannot be tolerated and those who commit the offence will be caught and punished accordingly. The message is simple: STOP THE VIOLENCE!
People must realise that those who inflict violence or hurt women and children are not only breaking the law, they are also committing a grave sin from a spiritual perspective.