By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
March is Women’s History Month, and many women have changed the course of history by their excellence in science, social justice, religion, medicine, environmental concerns and just about every field of endeavor. I could name many stellar women, many well-known “she-roes.”
But this year I would like to lift up the countless, unnamed women who have spoken out against sexual and gender-based violence. They can inspire us to continue speaking out for justice and mercy for women around the world.
These unnamed voices of social justice inspired the “Thursdays in Black” campaign of the World Council of Churches. According to the WCC “it grew out of the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998), in which stories of rape as a weapon of war, gender injustice, abuse, violence and many tragedies that grow outward from such violence became all the more visible. But what also became visible was women’s resilience, agency and personal efforts to resist such violations.”
Some of the women who inspired this campaign included:
These brave sisters all are calling for “resistance and resilience.” This is a serious global issue according to the WCC. One in three women today experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Globally, more than eight out of ten girls experience street harassment before they are 17 years old. Women and girls represent 70 percent of exploited human trafficking victims.
Everyone can play a part in drawing attention to these issues and doing something about them. The campaign calls upon us to:
The 348-member churches of the World Council of Churches, including a number of inter-religious partners, have adopted this campaign. All of us can “be ambassadors in our words and actions for respect, security and justice for women, men, girls and boys.”
At our UMC’s 2020 Session of General Conference in Minneapolis there will be a “Thursdays in Black” reminder. We don’t have to wait until then. Let’s make our churches into places of peace, justice and learning about these issues during Women’s History Month and beyond. Let’s honor those brave women who have resisted cruel exploitation, violence and injustice and who remain resilient in their efforts.
Hymn writer Rev. Carolyn Gillette reminds us in her hymn: “God of Love, We’ve Heard the Teaching”:
By your Spirit may we witness to your peaceful, loving way
May we share your love and justice every moment, every day
May the people hurt by violence know they’re valued by your grace
And may all who are in crisis find a refuge in this place.