South African women and girls live in one of the most violent yet most religious societies in the world. More than 90% of its population ascribe to religious practice. While many victims or survivors of violence use faith as a coping mechanism and approach their religious leaders for help, perpetrators often misinterpret scriptures in support of their abusive behaviour.
In an effort to prioritise the issue of violence against women and children within faith communities and society as a whole, the South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI) launched a series of messages by South African faith leaders calling upon their counterparts and every South African to Take a Stand against intimate partner abuse and gender-based violence.
You can find all video messages on the SAFFI website: http://www.saffi.org.za/
Launch of a theological advisory council on GBV
By way of sustaining the work within the faith sector, SAFFI also launched a Theological Advisory Council on Gender-based Violence in early December with Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane as its patron. He is joined by 18 respected theologians, scholars and religious leaders from various faiths and theological institutions who pledged their commitment to assist SAFFI in addressing the root causes and faith dimensions of gender-based violence (GBV).
The advisory council aims to meet regularly to address pertinent themes which emerge during preaching and support services to individuals and families who are afflicted by GBV. It seeks to:
- Offer theological guidance and advice on easily misinterpreted religious scriptures, teachings and practices as they relate to gender-based violence;
- Be available to SAFFI and GBV service providers when faith-based guidance is sought to better assist victims, survivors, perpetrators and children in relation to GBV
- Provide sound faith-based input to the development of resource material, denomination specific statements, policies and procedures in the quest to advance theologically sound GBV prevention, intervention and after care services, programs or campaigns.
Faith leaders empowered by SAFFI training
The event that marked the launch of the advisory council was also used to commemorate this year's 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and children – with a particular focus on the faith sector's action. On the occasion, 25 religious leaders and 16 faith-based lay counsellors predominantly from Khayelitsha, Phillipi, Mfuleni, Langa, Bonteheuwel, Edgemead and North Pine received certificates for completing SAFFI’s 5 Day Domestic Violence Pastoral Care Training earlier in 2014.
The faith leaders stressed how the training empowered them to understand and deal with issues of domestic and gender-based violence in their communities. Rev Allan Marshall, an Anglican priest, highlighted the fact that the issue of women abuse is often swept under the carpet in white and affluent faith communities. The training expanded his understanding and he has started to integrate what he has learnt in his sermons. Fr Selwyn Engelbrecht from Northpine praised SAFFI for giving him more appropriate tools to intervene pastorally with deeper insight into the complex dynamics and the role of faith when dealing with congregants who experience domestic violence. Bishop Mncendisi Mpande from Khayelitsha expressed his gratitude for having been empowered. “The training enabled me to examine my theological understanding and interpretation of scriptures which I have misused for so long” he conceded. Bishop Mpande informed that he has started a campaign of reaching into all their churches across the country using the training material.
About the South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI)
The South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI) recognizes that religion plays an integral part both in the continuation of Violence against Women and in its eradication. Thus SAFFI’s main objective is to build the capacity of religious leaders and faith communities in addressing issues of gender based violence in our communities and becoming a positive catalyst for change.
Through its work, SAFFI encourages the faith sector to work closely with existing domestic violence service providers and the justice system in providing collaborative community based initiatives. The intention is that faith leaders are encouraged to dispel any misinterpretation of scriptures and promote sound contextualized faith resources.
For more information visit www.saffi.org.za and on Facebook: South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI)