The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Women's Ministries department joined together to stop violence against women yesterday during the launch of a new advocacy campaign.
Titled EndItNow, the campaign calls Adventists around the world to work in their communities to stop violence against women and girls, campaign organizers said.
The EndItNow campaign features a signature drive, aiming for 1 million signatures representing each of the 200 countries with an Adventist presence, campaign organizers said. The signatures will be presented to the United Nations upon completion.
"It's a global crisis, and as a church we need to be involved and be aware," said Heather-Dawn Small, director of Women's Ministries.
One out of three women around the world is a victim of physical or psychological repression, while approximately 135 million girls have undergone female genital mutilation, ADRA leaders said during the EndItNow presentation.
ADRA President Charles Sandefur said violence against women can be a silent and subtle threat that impacts hundreds of millions of lives.
"[EndItNow] gives us a common voice and calls the rest of the church to follow," Sandefur said.
ADRA and Women's Ministries presented the joint initiative to church delegates during the 2009 Annual Council meetings.
Coordinators asked the delegates to sign the EndItNow banner to kick off the signature drive. Adventist world church President Jan Paulsen signed first, saying the campaign was "a strong, powerful" statement.
"I hope and I pray, and I will do my part so that this will make an impact, and that the position that we take as a people, giving the highest value to women, will become widely known and supported across ... religious, cultural and national boundaries," Paulsen said.
The church's Ministerial Association Secretary Jim Cress expressed his strong support for the campaign.
"Ministers everywhere will join with this in affirming the dignity of young people, of women, of anyone who has been suffering from violence," Cress said.
The Women's Ministries department promotes the church's annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, held every fourth Saturday in August. The department also provides scholarships for young women around the world who would not otherwise be able to afford higher education, Small said.
ADRA, the humanitarian organization of the Adventist church, funds programs benefitting women and girls, including female genital mutilation prevention, anti-human trafficking initiatives, and women's literacy programs.
Lorna Grace Okotto, a lay delegate attending the meetings from Kenya, said she felt the campaign was a major step in the right direction.
"It can come as a surprise to some people, but violence against women is right [inside] in the church of God, sometimes even by elders, sometimes even by pastors," said Okotto. "Thank you so much, my sisters and ADRA for taking this initiative."
For more information, visit enditnow.org.