For some crazy reason my latest relaxation reading has been biographies written by women about their lives in some of the more difficult nations in the world. Just in case anyone’s wondering, it’s not great relaxation reading. On the plus side it does burn off lots of calories as I go speed walking to burn off my frustration.
One of the latest books that I read was “I am Nujood, aged 10 and divorced.” I remember vaguely hearing about this on the news when it happened. As was traditional in her area, Nujood’s family arranged for her to marry an older man. Whilst he promised not to consummate the relationship until she had reached puberty, the moment they got back to his village he became incredibly violent and raped her multiple times a day, justifying it as his right as a husband.
In her desperation to escape the horror of her marriage she got herself to a court building where she presented herself before a judge and requested a divorce. Fortunately she found a great judge, who found a great human rights lawyer. Nujood not only got a divorce, but started an international call for change in the laws and practices around child marriage.
November 25, marks the Annual Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Every year there are simply hundreds of special days. It’s impossible to keep up with them all. But regardless, this is one that I do think is worth pausing to remember. Staggering numbers of women face domestic violence every day around the world. It’s hard for us to really grasp what is happening from our comfortable homes. That’s why reading biographies starts to make it real. Take a story like Nujood and multiply it many times over. At the very least it should bring us to our knees in prayer. These are real people facing real pain, real terror. I wonder if we are doing enough. What would I want the world to be doing if it was me?
There are also glimpses of hope. I remember when we first started the TCT program 12 years ago. After the first year of training, we asked a group of trainers what spiritual changes they had seen in the churches. They responded, “Now the deacons don’t drink, smoke and beat their wives.” A little shocking but great news. As we continued to teach we found many amazing, Godly church leaders who had no idea that beating their wives wasn’t a God-honoring way to behave. Boys grow up seeing their grandfather beat their grandmother, their father beat their mother, and all the men in the village beating their wives. Churches often focus on evangelism or more ‘spiritual’ topics such as prayer. So how could these men possibly have known their actions were wrong? Thankfully, there are now thousands of women who are no longer mistreated as their husbands learn to love their wives as Christ loved the church. It’s a glimpse of hope.
This past year, I met with local area leaders in our TCT program in another area and asked them what the most significant changes have been since the program started. Their first response was, “The women don’t run away to China any more.” They shared how in the past the men were so abusive that the women often risked trafficking in China rather than stay to marry local men and face that abuse. Now in over 100 villages there is no longer any physical abuse. The women stay. They want to marry the men of that tribe now. Glimpses of hope.
This year we started our work in DR Congo. It’s known as the worst place in the world to be a woman. I’ll be honest. As we started, I felt hopeless. What do we have to offer in the midst of such brokenness? What do we know about how to bring change to problems this big?
Eight months later the answer is (as always) that it is God who transforms, not us. God is using TCT training to bring change. In one area, we brought a one-hour lesson on the biblical truth that all people are important to God. Women had never attended a training in this area. They are too low–why teach a woman? So only men came to hear the lesson. These church leaders and pastors were so moved that they decided to invite their wives to the training the next day. These women joyfully participated in the training, even voicing their opinions–something that they had never ever done.I really don’t understand it. The lesson isn’t even about women, and yet God used it to begin to change attitudes that have been held for generations. It’s glimpses of hope.
Please join us as we look to see the elimination of violence against women. It’s a cause worth getting behind. We invite you to pray for women around the world and consider supporting one of our programs. The TCT program, Ending Gendercide and The Wholistic Development Center are working to make a direct difference in this area. The Create Commission also creates art on topics of gender justice and works with women who have come out of trafficking situations.