Ending Violence Against Women and Children: A Grassroots Movement
Domestic Violence Awareness Month Reflection
I was in the third grade when I became aware of the Civil Rights Movement. My father, a very passive man, began filling my mind and heart with the prophetic language and revolutionary imagery of the movement. He brought me posters of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton. He read me articles about the sit-ins in North Carolina by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the leadership of Ella Baker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This was my father’s gift to me. At eight years old, he began planting in me the seeds of individual passion, community justice making, local action, national transformation and leadership. I couldn’t wait to grow up and get involved . . . passionately preparing and praying to be a leader in a grassroots, justice-making, transforming movement.
I was fortunate to grow up in an African American neighborhood where businesses were Black owned, my teachers were Black, and even the mayor was Black; therefore, I didn’t come in contact with much racism, although my father made sure I knew it existed. What I did witness and experience was violence against women and children. I didn’t hear any prophetic language or see any revolutionary imagery around these issues, but this is the injustice which I am called to respond. Working to help end violence against women and children became my passion and my call to justice making.
Last year at the 54th Annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, hundreds of delegates went to the UN Commission meeting and accompanying NGO meetings, including Religions for Peace: Global Women of Faith Network and Ecumenical Women at the United Nations. Delegates met from morning to night addressing concerns of education for girls to health care, economic development to armed conflict, violence against women to immigration and refugee status.
Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune and I were privileged to attend the Religions for Peace: Global Women of Faith Network and Ecumenical Women at the United Nations meetings. The agenda specifically focusing on the global issues of violence against women includes holding perpetrators accountable, addressing sexual violence in war and conflict areas, and assessing the particular circumstances of women’s vulnerabilities to violence with an eye to rectifying this. The common discussion was the empowerment of women at the local level with information and resources to support each other and hold perpetrators accountable.
It was in that environment of powerful, spiritually radical women leaders that the pieces fell into place and I had my epiphany. If girls are going to learn something different about their worth and power, they will have to learn that from women. If there is going to be a transformation that brings an end to violence against women and girls, everyday, working, parenting, courageous women will lead it. If women are going to learn how read and interpret the sacred texts of their religion in a way that affirms and celebrates the feminine, women are going to teach those lessons. If anyone is going to deconstruct the passive, oppressive and dehumanizing theologies and traditions that subjugate women and girls, and transform their faith communities, women are going to do that work. The balm that is able to heal the impotency of all our faith traditions to deal radically, therefore effectively, with the issues of injustice toward women is passionately kept in the alabaster box of marginalized yet courageous women across the world. In the words of Audre Lorde, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
In my faith tradition, Christianity, women make up the majority population of the church but are the minority in ordained or licensed leadership. I thought I would never see the bright side to this phenomenon, but I have. This means that the church’s true power and administration of ministry to its community and the world, for the most part, is in the hands of women. The Christian church is called to be a prophetic community and voice in the world. In the words of Walter Brueggemann, “Prophetic ministry consists of offering an alternative perception of reality and in letting people see their own history in the light of God’s freedom and [God’s] will for justice.” This is the message and the movement that women and congregations across faith traditions and the world have begun. And this is the foundation of FaithTrust Institute.
FaithTrust Institute brings its thirty-plus years of leadership in helping to end violence against women and children to this grassroots movement alongside women, lay leaders, congregations and clergy who are already involved in this work as well those who will be drawn to it in the future.
Currently, we are providing leadership alongside the United Methodist Women in their historic partnership with The General Commission on United Methodist Men and their initiative to educate and equip every local UMC congregation on the issues of domestic violence.
We are providing leadership alongside the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries to reach out to local congregations, through internet technology, to bring a heightened awareness and resources to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, teen relationship violence, adult survivors of child abuse and clergy misconduct.
We are providing leadership alongside the Lutheran Community Foundation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in their initiative to develop safe and healthy congregations. This long-term commitment of the Lutheran Community Foundation is sponsoring the education and training of hundreds clergy and laity church teams to address domestic violence, healthy teen relationships, and prevention and intervention of child abuse.
FaithTrust Institute is a leader, a catalyst and a resource to help women organize their congregations to create programs, give women a voice, take action and leadership to eliminate violence against women.
FaithTrust Institute invites you to be part of this movement, to ignite or fan the flame of your passion and claim or strengthen your leadership in the work to end violence against women and children.
This is the time we have been preparing and praying for, and we are here, ready to be transformed, to bring about transformation.
Rev. Dr. Aleese Moore-Orbih
Director Training and Consulting