Eighteen Thursdays in Black ambassadors gathered in May to discuss how to build on the momentum of many creative efforts across the world to move toward a world free from rape and violence.
World Council of Churches (WCC) deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, who opened the meeting, said that it is no small thing to be an ambassador for Thursdays in Black at a time when there is so much violence.
The World Council of Churches is an ecumenical partner supported by the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment, which enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations.
The ambassadors shared updates and ideas from their local contexts. Their role—which has expanded over the last several years with a growing number of global voices—is to amplify the impact of the collective call for a world without rape and violence. From issuing joint messages, to working in their own contexts, to drawing attention to the campaign, the ambassadors are working with creativity and compassion.
Colleen Geyer, general secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly, reflected on the challenge of getting political recognition of gender-based violence.
Rev. Dr Anders Göranzon, general secretary of the Swedish Bible Society, spoke in the context of concerns over the war in Ukraine, particularly the prospect of Sweden joining NATO.
Dr Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, chief executive, Rozaria Memorial Trust, reflected that the war between Russia and Ukraine has become a social conflict for the world. Gumbonzvanda also works on ending child rape, “which the world calls ‘child marriage’ to make it sound acceptable.”
Individual also have the power to make a positive difference. Rev. Sharon Hollis, an Australian minister and president of the Uniting Church in Australia, noted that after incidents of women bearing the brunt of islamophobia, one social media post started an "I’ll ride with you” program in Australia where non-Islamic women accompany Islamic women on public transport, in response to threats and violence that Islamic women face.
Rev. Dr Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations and co-executive for Global Ministries, United Church of Christ, shared that a proposal will come to the church’s synod for a designation for gender justice churches as part of the church’s “Just World Covenants.”
Many ambassadors said their churches or organizations had contributed quilt patches to the "Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance" tapestry for display at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe.
Rev. Michael Blair, general secretary, General Council, The United Church of Canada, said Canadian churches are connecting to deep gender justice-related work.
Jessica Roland, senior specialist for Inclusive Peace for the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, highlighted the ongoing involvement of members in Thursdays in Black. The Network will host an inclusivity-based community of practice meeting in October focused on how members and supporters are addressing gender-based violence and will develop further action points in preparation for November’s 16 Days Campaign to raise awareness on violence against women.
The ambassadors agreed to explore the idea of a joint statement leading up to the WCC 11th Assembly. The importance of breaking the silence over all forms of gender-based violence especially by the church was emphasized. As Blair, stated: “We do violence by not naming.”
World Council of Churches website
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment at 100 percent.