We were gathered in Melbourne at a Roundtable on Domestic and Family Violence coordinated by the National Council of Churches in Australia.
Thursdays in Black is a global, ecumenical campaign arising from the World Council of Churches decade for the elimination of violence against women. Thursdays in Black is about resistance and resilience.
The campaign is simple but profound. All you have to do is wear black on Thursdays.
You can also wear a pin to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence.
By simply wearing black, you show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence.
And when people ask you about it you can encourage others to join you.
According to the World Bank, women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
And here in Australia, approximately one woman every week is murdered by a partner or ex-partner.
Many more women and children live in fear of violence from perpetrators of domestic and family violence.
As Australian church leaders, we gathered to share resources from our churches on the ways we are responding to domestic and family violence.
Churches from the Anglican Communion, Churches of Christ, Hillsong, Lutherans, Orthodox, the Salvation Army, and Uniting Church traditions were present.
The event was coordinated by Uniting Chruch member Emily Evans, who is working as a Project Officer with the NCCA.
Together we reflected on the theological and Biblical foundations for relationships that are mutual, respectful and equal.
We noted that gender inequality contributes to violence against women, and there are ways that scripture has been used to contribute to such violence.
We also spoke of Jesus’ liberating praxis in his ministry with and alongside women.
There are excellent resources currently produced by churches across Australia – a number are available online.
The Assembly Resourcing Unit through the leadership of Rev. Charissa Suli, is working to gather resources together from other churches, government and non-government sources, to inform our ongoing work in the Uniting Church responding to domestic and family violence.
At our UCA Assembly meeting in July last year, we strongly reaffirmed our commitment to addressing Domestic and Family Violence.
There are a number of ways we are addressing this:
In congregations – where people connect with their communities, members offer pastoral care, friendship, advocacy and practical support where people are impacted by domestic violence.
In our agencies – through the professional advocacy and support by UnitingCare for people in situations of domestic violence, people who have escaped domestic violence and those dealing with its impacts and ongoing trauma.
In our schools – by raising awareness about domestic violence and its impacts, and getting alongside students living in those situations.
In our theological colleges – by raising up theological and Biblical foundations that support the equality of women and men, and addressing narratives of harm and hope in scripture and our theological and historical foundations.
In our professional development - by encouraging ministry agents in developing skills to respond pastorally to people in situations of domestic violence.
In our approach to formation for Christian discipleship – through Christian education programs for children and young people that support relationships of community life grounded in our creation in God’s image, and the way of Jesus - infinitely loved, deserving of respect, mutuality and dignity.
In the wider society – by addressing injustice and inequality, sexism and exploitation of children and young people.
Also by challenging patterns of violence, and promoting and modelling ways of living together based on respect, care, mutuality and non-violence.
Over the next two years, the Assembly Resourcing Unit will be working with Synod staff, Uniting Care organisations, Presbyteries and Assembly leaders, to further resource the Uniting Church in effectively and faithfully responding to Domestic and Family Violence.