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Day 16, 16 Days of Activism 2022

Written by Rev. Nicqi Ashwood, World Council of Churches

Here we are again in 2022 reflecting on the 16 Days of Activism (and advocacy) to end Violence Against Women and Girls. This time around, we speak to the issue with yet another war headlining almost daily – Russia’s war in Ukraine. There are reports of women being weaponized and victimized, a human rights violation and war crime that often goes unpunished. Elsewhere in the news, and by far under-reported, there are 160+ political martyrs in Myanmar, as anyone speaking out against the insurrectionist government is at risk for detention and/or murder. Wars continue unabated in most continents, and where the war isn’t overt, the actions of discrimination by those in power (sometimes minority factions) toward the marginalized is as dangerous as armed conflict.

In Haiti, anarchy reigns. Rival gangs wreak havoc on the innocent while the world watches and impose more sanctions and embargoes. In Nigeria, although there is a government, kidnapping is the order of the day. The normalcy of kidnapping would suggest that it is economically viable for organized and petty criminals. Knowing that guns are not manufactured in either of those countries, the pointed fingers turn elsewhere and silence reigns on the issues of complicity and culpability. Of great unspoken concern is the recognition that where kidnapping is commonplace, rape is equally prevalent.

Given these pictures of degradation and depravity, which partially exclude the current climate catastrophe, one must consider ‘What is the value of Ubuntu, imago Dei, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’? Ubuntu, the African concept of unity for the common good, is rooted in the virtues of compassion and humanity. It engenders a sense of common humanity and community where we recognize that our individual actions affect the life and livelihood of the communal whole. Some theologians might argue that Ubuntu is another way of speaking to ‘imago Dei’, the Judeo-Christian worldview that sees the reflection of God in the other, as humanity is created in God’s likeness (Creation hermeneutics; Genesis 1:26-28). In those faith communities, our pre-Fall divinity shapes our understanding that there is no room for marginalization and/or dehumanizing of another, for regardless of race, class or gender (all human constructs) we are equal in our divine DNA and identity.

At its adoption in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) sought to reflect the socio-ethical implications of life in community; be it local, national, regional or global. Steering away from the somewhat divisive nature of theological and cultural thought, the UNDHR ‘proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’ Again, the invitation to recognize that regardless of the time or season, we must guard each other’s dignity, while affirming the worth of all. The imbalances of relationships – between humanity and all creation – negate those rights and refute the notions of community, conviviality and solidarity. So we live in a community that already is imploding on itself, subsequent to human greed and our failure to affirm the dignity of or see God in the other. By now, we should realize selfishness and greed gets us nowhere.

As people of faith, working in humanitarian, legislative and other spaces, there is no better time to reignite a greater sense of community as we affirm the agency, dignity and humanity of all. This is our common commitment among the members of the World Council of Churches. That is the ethos of the Thursdays in Black campaign – we strive for a world without rape or violence. After a year of speaking out about injustice, calling for reconciliation and unity, negotiating peace between warring factions and affirming the dignity of women and men, the WCC closes these 16 Days with a prayer for ALL to experience the life-transforming power of receiving their inalienable right without fear of retribution.

It can happen when we work together. When we embrace the otherness of ourselves, and God in our neighbour. That’s why year after year we stand against sexual and gender-based violence. Join us!

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