This month, Seventh-day Adventists worldwide are encouraged to raise awareness of violence against women and girl children within their respective congregations.
The Adventist Church holds its Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day annually on the fourth Saturday of each August. Church leaders launched the initiative in 2001, noting that domestic violence and sexual abuse affect Christian homes at rates similar to the general population. The first steps to fight abuse, they said, are awareness and education.
This year, resources produced by the world church's Women's Ministries department focus on violence against women, including topics such as human trafficking, the forced prostitution of young girls, Female Genital Mutilation, child marriages, domestic violence, forced abortions and rape. Previous years have tackled domestic violence, incest, abuse of power and abuse of the elderly.
One out of three women worldwide is a victim of physical or psychological repression, while approximately 135 million girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation, church leaders have said.
This year's materials are designed to help church members approach the subject of violence against women by first affirming that every individual is a "temple" of God, deserving of respect, according to a website launched for the emphasis day. The resource packet includes a sample sermon, Scripture reading selections, a children's story and a PowerPoint presentation that local church leaders are urged to present on August 28.
"If we are precious in God's eyes, then we must do all we can to prevent anyone from desecrating not only our own bodies, but those of our sisters [worldwide]," said Heather-Dawn Small, world church Women's Ministries director, in a letter distributed with the resource packet.
The emphasis day is also an opportunity to rally the community in support against abuse. "When you invite the community to come to your church to discuss abuse and learn how to end it, this is common ground," said Raquel Arrais, associate director for Women's Ministries. "They come not only to support the program, but to learn more about the God who says 'yes' to love and 'yes' to justice," she said.
Also part of the Women's Ministries department's ongoing abuse awareness effort is EndItNow, launched last year with the church's humanitarian arm, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, to end violence against women and girl children.