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“My Heart Is So Sore . . .”

Dec 01, 2010 — Categories: ,

We sat together with the Religious Leaders Forum of Cape Town. Clergy and lay, men and women who have come together to address gender violence in their communities. Twenty people met in a room in a Dutch Reformed Church. The women began to share their stories.

Marie Fortune is now in South Africa for the launch of SAFFI, the South African Faith and Family Institute.

We sat together with the Religious Leaders Forum of Cape Town. Clergy and lay, men and women who have come together to address gender violence in their communities. Twenty people met in a room in a Dutch Reformed Church. The women began to share their stories.

SAFFI Launch Religious Leaders Forum1A young colored* woman identified herself as an undertaker. She told her boss that she would be late to work today because she had to go to this forum. She said that every week she buries women and children who were victims of violence. One recent case was especially hard for her: a young woman raped and murdered. “My heart is so sore, but I have to do this work.” Several weeks ago she prepared the bodies of a woman and her child who were murdered by the father. She knew this family personally. As she drove the hearse to the cemetery, the father rode in the front seat with her, weeping and wailing. She finally confronted him, saying, “Why are you crying? You did this to them.”

An older colored* woman described the 35 years of abuse at the hands of her husband. She was finally able to escape from him, and he is now deceased. She is a woman of deep faith, and she recalled telling her husband one time when he threatened to kill her, “Nobody will take me out of this world except God!” She speaks freely about her experience in order to help younger women, and she is challenging her church to get involved.

SAFFI Launch Religious Leaders Forum2I asked the Methodist woman pastor how she was received by her congregation. She said generally very well but that she was not easily intimidated by those who did not respect her ministry. Then she commented about a woman pastor colleague of hers who was being abused and had left her husband. “This is an issue for us, not just for our people.”

This Religious Leaders Forum is organizing in this corner of the city to get faith communities to bring leadership in addressing gender violence. These leaders know that the church can often be part of the problem but now they expect it to be part of the solution. God is clearly at work in this place.

At the end of this day, my heart is so very sore. But I am also encouraged by the resiliency and courage of people who refuse to let violence have the last word in their lives.

*In South Africa, people are categorized in racial groups as white, black, colored (mixed race) or Indian.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

Document Actions

16 days

Posted by Judy at Dec 02, 2010 12:31 PM
Marie,

May you dig into your own well of resilience to hear the stories you are hearing.

Keep up the good work.

Blessings from Maine

Ministerial Abuse

Posted by Shirley Fessel at Dec 03, 2010 11:55 AM
I am still struggling to face telling my story of abuse at the hands of my minister-husband. Thank you for this work. I too have a sore heart when dealing with these issues but am so glad that there is a momentum growing of recognizing the role of the church in keeping women oppressed. Your work helps our resilence.

1979 in South Africa

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at Dec 16, 2010 12:29 PM
Marie,

As a missionary serving in Malawi, working with community development, my family and I took a rather relaxing vacation in 1979. Relaxing except for the shock of the separate-but-not-equal facilities even in a mall that was the equivalent of any we'd seen in the USA.

What stole my heart, though, was the housekeeper at our guest house who was not even allowed to sleep in the servant's quarters in Johnannesburg, where she would have had a comfortable place for herself and her children. She had to be back in Soweto by law before sundown!

We attended church where many white South Africans were greatly troubled for their nation. This congregation hated apartheid, yet even they felt helpless against the powerful regime. I've never been in such a heart-wrenching prayer meeting.

My heart has had a dull ache since those shocking experiences, just as a tourist! You are a reminder to me that we need to keep speaking what we do know, in every area of oppression. Thanks.

Dee Ann Miller
www.takecourage.org