About that “Destructive Wildfire We Must Fight”, it should be noted that (as California firefighters will testify) multiple devastating wildfires can be blazing out of control at the same time. As Christians, we need to intensify our efforts to bring an end to sexual violence against anyone—a wildfire that is out of control both inside and outside the church and should keep us awake at night.
Today, Monday, November 25, is the United Nations’ official International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Sexual violence and harassment against the vulnerable is a monumental problem, and the bad news it is only part of a much wider global crisis that impacts every community and every culture.
The United Nations statement today defines sexual violence against women as,
“any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Such violence against women takes “physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing—
- intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);
- sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment);
- human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);
- female genital mutilation; and
- child marriage.”
There are no winners when a destructive fire like this is scorching our planet and destroying lives with very few working to contain, much less eradicate the blaze. This violence reverses human flourishing. Those who suffer are diminished, and the world is deprived of the gifts and potential God entrusted to them.
But the damage doesn’t stop there.
In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres,
“Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination. Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances.”
What his statement doesn’t include is the fact that men who perpetrate and/or cover-up violence against women, children, or other men suffer self-inflicted wounds. Violent actions against another person violates the imago Dei in the victim and also in the perpetrator.
Such violence also violates God’s creation vision in which he empowered his sons and daughters to rule creation (not each other) and to carry out that rule together as a Blessed Alliance. Our shared mission is to represent our Creator and to look after things in his world for the flourishing of all. When half of God’s imago Dei is sidelined, dehumanized, and wounded by others God created to bear his image, human actions become an affront to God himself and our mission suffers costly setbacks. Human violence dismantles God’s kingdom strategy whenever one person choses to dominate and rule over another.
The United Nations’ focus on this crisis is an important step. How can we join the effort to engage and end this crisis?