Monday, 11 October 2010

A day of blessings and presents

Today was my first day back at work after three weeks away. It was great to meet up with colleagues again and to start the week back in the chapel. As always though after a long holiday there is the slight feeling of re-entry, so I was extraordinarily blessed to return to my office after lunch and discover a card, a huge purple flowering orchid and a great new handbag. To then discover that these presents were from female colleagues at the World YWCA was like an added blessing of sisterly solidarity.

In just over a month the World YWCA and YMCA will holday their annual week of prayer

This year’s YWCA/YMCA Week of Prayer will be held from the November 14 to 20, 2010 . The theme is ‘Women Creating a Safe World,’ which is also the theme of the World YWCA Council and International Women’s Summit to be held in Zurich, Switzerland, in July 2011. The International Women’s Summit will explore the intersection between violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights and the spread of HIV. The theme celebrates women as leaders and co-creators of life everyday. In the company of many faith traditions, Christianity explores and affirms the role of women in creation, nurturing life and reaching out to the other.
I was asked to write six daily meditations for the week which you can find by scrolling down and clicking on the week of prayer booklet link here. And here are the themes for the six days:
Day one: Blessed are those who risk, for they shall be offered safety
Day two: Blessed are those who refuse to violate women, for they
have chosen life
Day three: Blessed are those who recognise and value the unique
talents of others, for they shall succeed
Day four: Blessed are those who raise their voices for health justice,
they shall be heard
Day Five: Blessed are those who build community, for they will be
blessed with belonging 13
Day Six: Blessed are those who dare to change, for they shall be
blessed with the future
Here is the meditation from day two, you'll have to go to the booklet for the questions and prayer. And thanks once more to my wonderful colleagues at the World YWCA for their generosity, support, creativity and leadership. This week they mark their week without violence.

Blessed are those who refuse to violate women, for they have chosen life
But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. (Judges 19:25)
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The Bible text in Judges 19:22-30 tells a terrible story of gang rape. Do the men inside the house listen to the woman's screams as they last through the night or do they sleep? Do they pray for her or for themselves? Do they fear that she may not make it through the night and that the gang will come back to use them in the same way? If the gang comes knocking again, should they offer the virgin daughter of the host in order to protect their male honour?

Well, she was only a concubine. Not a real wife. And she's only a woman…

As terrible as the shrieks and violence during rape may be, terrifying too is the silence often imposed on women - by others or by themselvesafterwards.
Dare we speak and name what has happened?

There is a thumping sound next door, muffled shouts and cries. My neighbour is hitting his oldest daughter. He has been drinking. She is pregnant. How will his sons learn that this is not the way to treat the women in their lives?

And it's called "domestic violence" as if it were something tame. It is not.

The word "home" sounds so safe yet it can be a place of terror for many women.
To "choose life" is to campaign against everything that treats women as objects rather than as equal human beings. Choosing life is about longterm work with individuals, families and societies which examines the root causes of violence in sexism and the feelings of disempowerment.

Across generations, class, race and nations it is time to clearly say that violence in the private sphere is also unacceptable. We have the right to be safe in our homes. We choose life.