Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making the church rape free

After a long struggle the symbol of hope for women has died down. We are told that India’s daughter wanted to live and continued to struggle, wanting to come back. Her brutal rape is a reminder of how brutal men in India are. However much we justify our institutions, frameworks, our legislators and our law enforcers, we have fallen short by many a mile. Many people in India sincerely prayed for the recovery of our daughter and sister. But nothing could stop the brutality of the rape, not even the best medical care. Where do we go from now?

I am a theological teacher (facilitator) and a church worker. My area of influence is theological seminaries, students, churches, church women, church men, girls, boys and children. I can’t help but wonder what my response to this highly despicable incident should be? After the strain and work of an academic term, after the joyful work of preaching and announcing Christ’s arrival to church members and the world, I am left drained. Not because of both the things I mentioned above, but because I haven’t been able to stop violence against women in the church and in society. I have been a failure amidst all the success I have enjoyed. And it is because of my silence, lack of pro-active involvement and status quo in the church and in seminaries that I feel this way. Every reluctance of standing for women has meant that I have been an accomplice in every rape.

What am I supposed to do? I am supposed to facilitate a thinking process in the minds of students from various parts of the country and various denominations. I am supposed to teach and practise a thinking process that women are not lesser than men, women have to be respected, women have feelings and the body of women belong to them. I am also supposed to preach and practise the same in church. But I am falling short time and again. Time and again women are not getting justice in church and I go along with the status quo. In all trueness I am not doing my job.

Every religion is supposed to be a protest, a movement asking for change. And yet we are far from it today. Can women wear what they want to in church without hearing a lewd comment in the back ground and being marked twisted? Can women speak in church without being labelled ‘forward’? Can women file a complaint against a church leader/s for harassment, misrepresentation, misuse of authority, humiliation, staring, sexual overtures, and misquoting of scripture? Can women expect the church to support them in the case of domestic violence, marriage related violence, violence at work, violence during public transport, violence at public spaces and violence from the law and authorities? If the answer is no, isn’t the church an accomplice to violence against women?

What am I going to accomplish by lighting a candle in church against the violence and brutal rape and murder of the 23 year old woman? Nothing much I suppose. There are several women in my own church who in all probability are exposed to violence in different places and the church remains silent to this. “Potte mole” (It is okay daughter, let it go daughter) is a constant reminder given to women to forgive and forget. Today has reminded us that we face a grim reality. Part of India has risen up against this. There are many others who have not got support and have been violated again and again. This is the time to fight for all women. No more potte mole. “Unaruvin and poruthuveen” (rise and fight) would be a better slogan for women and for those men and leaders including me who have some sense of guilt left in them.

24 comments:

JERIN C Valsan said...

Absolutely right Achen...

Gladious Ranjini said...

It's a wonderful post and I wish each citizen in this world respects women and let the question " what I am supposed to do for the world to make a better place" keeps ringing in each one of our heart.

JK said...

Dear Achan, I don't think we need to search high and low about what causes all these sort of issues. Rape is only the extreme end of a spectrum where the women is seen only as a commodity. If we need to put a stop to it, we need to start from our own families. Hope you'll find time for my post on this at http://jeevankuruvilla.blogspot.in/2012/12/much-beyond-rape.html

Mammen P John said...

It is absolutely the time now that we should feel the pain, and insult every Indian woman feel today. The Law makers should commit themselves to change the law so that this type of atrocities are handled most seriously with highest and toughest punishment. Women should be treated with respect, and their rights must be protected in any society because they are our equal partners.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Jomon Punnoose, facebook, Dec 29, 2012, 6:45 P.M.- Nice article achan.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Dr. Jayakiran Sebastian, facebook, Dec 29, 2012, 8:58 P.M.- Thanks, Jerry, for your anguished introspection that offers so much to think, reflect, and act upon.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks for commenting Jerin. I hope a change comes in our attitude to women in general.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks for dropping in Gladious Ranjini. I guess people like me should move over and support young women like you to come to the forefront.Unfortunately that is not happening now.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks for the comment Jeevan Kuruvilla. Families are indeed a place where change should start. I checked out your post and even commented. Hope it came as it did not appear immediately.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Well said Mammen P. John. Men rarely feel the hurt felt by women. We think equality is something to be said in the class room and not be practised in real life.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Dear Kiran sir, we rarely introspect, do we? Churches and seminaries do not offer an equal space and safe space for women I feel. It is something we should deliberate for long I suppose.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Jomon achen, I hope churches will become a bit more open in talking about and bringing about equality in the church.

ciya said...

Hi Achen,
I feel that at any time you deny a girl or a woman her basic dignity you rape her. We see this type of rape very often in our upper middle class christian society.Physical rape is then an extension of this. We needs to sensitize our young boys , by practicing gender equality at home and in churches. Give equal love , give equal chores and dish out equal punishments.
The church if not today , somewhere in the near future will definitely have to take concrete steps towards gender equality .
Individuals, families, churches, societies , we all need to do some serious introspection. We need to teach our boys to respect women. Today as a mother of two boys I feel that it is my responsibility to facilitate the process.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Well said Ciya. In fact voices of women like you should be heard in the church and society. Men have talked long enough. Conscientization of boys at a very young age is indeed very important.

Anonymous said...

CSI Derec, facebook, Dec 30, 2012, 12:08 P.M.- It is so convenient for the church to believe it is through the sin of one woman that the whole world suffer...and it is too convenient for us to forget that it is through the crime of many men that many women suffer. What an irony!

Anonymous said...

Respected Achen,
I understand & join your concerns. However may I request you kindly consider changing the title, "Making the church rape free".
It sends a shiver on my spine on this New Year day.
Why the Church? Replace Church with 'World' or something which could be better a alternative.
I may have my own elaborations to join you on this matter. Soon I will find some time scribble a few words, perhaps at another place and time.
In prayers,
Jose G Doha Qatar

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Dear Jose G,
Thank you for writing your concerns very sincerely. I suppose it does make one uncomfortable when associating the words church and rape. I therefore appreciate that you have asked for a change in word.
My reasons for having such a title are not to sensationalise the issue. I first thought of having religion instead of church but then thought I should talk about my specific universe, which is very much the church.
What I have seen so far is that everyone is asking for the blood of the rapists and protesting against the government for harsh rules like capital punishment, castration, injections and what not. What no one admits is that there is a woman abuser inside many, including Christians as well. If we don't admit this the problem will never go away. That does not mean that all men are bad and the entire church is bad. What it means is that the church which is constituted of ordinary people like you and me is also corrupted by various anti-women actions. This goes against the true belief of Christianity and the ministry of Jesus. So as Christians we need to root out the bad inside us and in the church. Other religious people should do the same as well.
The issue on rape is an important issue for us to deal with. This is because it reflects violence against women and disrespect for and discrimination against women. One cannot find a soultion with half measures. In the process we are bound to be hurt because as men we have enjoyed the fruits of what God has given, keeping away women in the process. Now and the coming days can be a wake up call for all of us to change this.
Truth is always unpleasant and it disturbs us greatly. I have also undergone the same and continue to do so even as I learn new things everyday. If we want change, it has to begin from oneself and from one's own community and one's own church. I hope I have explained myself. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Dear Achan,
My respect for you has increased after reading this article. People in authority act as though everything is going fine and they say that whatever little problems exist can be solved in due course of time within the framework of the existing institutions and arrangements.
It is nice to see you standing up and expressing you true feelings, like a real human being.
I hope you will find the strength to do something in your sphere of work to spread kindness and non-violence as our God Jesus Christ preached.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks for the comment. A priest like me is supposed to be a servant, just like a politician or government employee is supposed to be a public servant. Many a time we forget that. The primary role of a servant is to serve people like Jesus did. But in light of the Delhi incident servants like me also have the role to rally people to speak and do the truth in church and society.
We are in a position and seat and there is no doubt about that. But we are also human beings. That means we are vulnerable. Women in India are also vulnerable. People in power can feel this vulnerability only if they themselves accept their own vulnerability.
Change cannot be done over night. But it has to start with me and my community and spread around.

Anonymous said...

Darlena David, via Vichara Vedia facebook group, Dec 29, 2012, 4:03 P.M.- really? “Potte mole” (It is okay daughter, let it go daughter) i to “Unaruvin and poruthuveen” (rise and fight). Really? I hope the day comes.

Anonymous said...

Shanthi Mathai, via Vichara Vedi facebook group, Dec 30, 2012, 12:39 A.M.- Let more men speak out and become agents of change ...thank u Jerryachen

Anonymous said...

Aruna Gnanadason, via Vichara Vedi facebook group, Jan 3, 2013, 8:24 A.M.- when men stand up and speak....we have hope thank you Achen.

Anonymous said...

Merin Mathew, via Vichara Vedia facebook group, Jan 3, 2013, 9:35 A.M.- As a priest myself i can understand the role of accomplice. wen women are barred from d altar n denied d role of a clergy d church too is promoting the theory of inferiority of women. in one place among youths when we gave girls the role of assistin in holy communion the boys jus thought it was not possible. we hav failed in this department. we r jus happy givin lip service n sermons

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Posted originally in Vichara Vedia facebook group, Jan 3, 2013, 12:53 P.M.- I think there must be an initiative to give women their rights. A lot of civil initiatives are going on now. People in the church like me are very comfortable to associate ourselves with what is happening outside because it does not touch the church and change anything inside. Yesterday I was making some touches to a wedding liturgy which also included the woman's and man's name. I realized that I kept writing the man's name first. I had to stop and start writing the woman's name first then. The next challenge for us here will come when we discuss equal representation for women in the local church committee. I am expecting some fireworks but it helps a lot that many experienced people like you have done so much work to inspire people like me. I hope this inspiration will keep us strong to fight along side our sisters and mothers for justice.