In 2007 the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA) launched its TAMAR campaign addressing gender-based violence from a biblical perspective. The aim of the campaign is to make the voice of the church heard in the fight against gender-based violence. A particular focus is put on sexual and domestic violence. The basis of the campaign is an in-depth Bible study which enhances a dialogue on gender-based violence which is present in the Bible and active in the communities today. It has been useful to make religious leaders reflect and understand that sexual violence is not a problem only of the military. Through the Tamar campaign religious leaders in the Great lakes and the Horn of Africa started to grasp their responsibility as change agents to overcome gender-based violence. Norwegian Church Aid in Zambia treats gender and good governance in churches as one of its priority areas of work, because if the church wants to be engaged in the fight for equal rights, the church needs to put their own house in order before criticizing others. In Zambia, the work to engage the Churches to overcome GBV was started by NCA staff with seminars together with male and female church leaders where the focus was upon GBV and how it might be sustained by the churches as well as looking at the theological foundation for equality, Genesis 1, and the new concept of equal value of women and men as we meet it in the new Testament. The three church mother bodies signed ―the Zambian Church Declaration on Gender Injustice and Gender-based Violence‖. They have recognized that gender inequalities, imbalances and gender-based violence do exist within the churches.
The Leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, the Council of Churches in Zambia, and the Zambia Episcopal Conference committed their member churches to working for gender justice in the various decision making structures within the churches and the rest of society. They also committed themselves to gender mainstreaming in their institutions. Government representatives also appended their signature to the theological declaration to illustrate both the commitment from government and as an affirmation of the unity that is required between different organizations in fighting gender-based violence.
Perhaps the most important theme of the story of the rape of Tamar is that it is not primarily a story about sexual lust or-at least from the point of view of the story’s narrator-about the violation of a person. It is first and foremost a tale of the exercise of power and domination. From the narrator’s point of view, this is a ‘true crime’ story-but the crime is actually portrayed in the context of the books of Samuel, not as a crime against a person, but rather a property crime.
What are some of the motives that lead a man to rape a woman? What led Amnon to rape Tamar?
Whether the act is rape, sexual harassment, battery or the sexual abuse of a child all our approaches toward prevention as well as intervention and healing will fail until we recognize these not as acts of passion, lust or temper but as acts of power and aggression often using or targeting sexual body parts or sexist language-simply because this is the area of greatest vulnerability and greatest violation.
Do you know women like Tamar in your community? How are they viewed?
What can the Church do to break the silence against gender based violence?