Off the Wall Wednesday 1st July, 2015
A few weeks ago, I shared about the call for a “Saved and Safe Church” within the Methodist community in Fiji and the church’s taking ownership of its role in the issue of gender-based violence and child abuse, by conducting its own workshop with male participants from Methodist Men’s and Youth Fellowships.
The participants were introduced to and reflected on the themes of Gender-based Violence and Child Protection through a series of Bible Studies led by Rev. Dr. Cliff Bird from Uniting World’s Pacific Office., Presenters at the workshop included representatives of the White Ribbon Campaign, the Fiji Police Force, the Pacific Conference of Churches, and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre.
On the final day of the workshop the participants were grouped according to youth and men’s fellowships and ministers. They were then tasked with reflecting on the lessons learned and making personal and group commitments, action plans and also recommendations for the departments of the Church for programmatic activities as well as proposals for consideration by the Standing Committee and Conference.
Theological / Spiritual Commitments:
· The word of God needs to be preached and taught correctly, (Vunautaka vakadodonu, kakua na were ubiubi taka na vosa ni Kalou),including teaching and preaching of Social Justice.
· There was a recognition and appreciation of lessons learned through the week’s biblical and theological reflections – in particular Galatians 3:28 – Gender Equality (Kalatia 3:28 Tagane Kei na Yalewa Tautautavata)
· * Nomudrau wasea vata na vakatulewa / Sharing commitment to both genders.
· * Me da veisau taka noda bula eso e rawarawa ni da kaya sega ni rawa ni da cakava. / We need to change the mindset of doing things that we say we can’t do.
· Prayer, including chain prayer is important to the process of changing hearts and minds (Masumasu – Me vakalevutaki ) so that congregations commit to living and acting according to the Word (Bulataka na vosa ni Kalou.).
Personal /Group Commitments: (Mathew 6:6)
· Taking responsibility to discourage and avoid participating in degrading/dirty conversations about the opposite sex during kava sessions.( Na vakayacori ni coro e bati ni tanoa: Mo tarova o iko, Lako tani mai kina , Me da veisautaki keda ). This also includes reducing the consumption of kava and using the space for useful discussions on important issues (Vakalailaitaki na gunu yaqona. Kena ceuraki na ulutaga vinaka me veivosaki taki).
· Take precautions when using the internet and media. (Qarauna na internet kei na media.)
· They also committed to sharing about this programme with their own families to inculcate a culture of respect by men towards women & children and to hold awareness programmes on men as advocates against gender-based violence and violence against children in churches, circuits and divisions with a view to changing attitudes & mindset.
Proposals for Church and Community:
· Regular grassroots training on gender-based violence and child protection in all levels, (Kauta sobu na vuli ena vuvale vaka Talatala Tabacakacaka – Wasewase veivolekati), by training local trainers from all divisions and circuits. (Vakalevutaki na vuli -Me da dau tiko kina nai Talatala. Me vakarabailevutaki na vuli qo).
· Inclusion of this issue in informal teaching sessions, such as after sports training (Qito – oti na tereni, caka na vuli).
· The inclusion of these topics from Sunday School to Fellowship and Bible Study/Cell Group (Mata Siga) discussions for deeper understanding (Me vakararamataki na veika e dau tukuni tu ni vakatabui.) / Sacred things needs to be clarified clearly.
· Be open to and participate in programmes on gender-based violence and the protection of children.
· There are too many programmes which focus on groups within the family. The church needs to ensure that there are family oriented programmes and activities in the circuit. (Rui va levu nai tuvatuva ni Lotu ka lailai nai tuvatuva ni Vuvale eg. Mon: MYF Tues: Marama Wed: Lotu Thurs: Turaga Fri: Matasiga). Children should not be left alone ( Lesi eso na tamata nuitaki me ra yadrava nodra bula nai tabagone). Visitation is a key factor here, eg. Telling kids not to go to the local shop at night time. (Veisiko-Na nodra tuberi, kakua ni ra talai na sitoa ena bogi).
Recommendations to Conference, Church Leaders and Department Secretaries:
· Participants urged that gender-based violence and child protection should be included as one of the courses Davuilevu Theological College (Me tauravaki me dua na lesoni mai Vuli Talatala) as well as the need for a Consultation Department for Counseling purposes. (Me dua tale na Department ni Consultation vei na Counseling.)
· To help with preaching on such issues, refresher courses for all lay preachers should include, “Contextualization of Sermon” (Refresh course vei ira na Dauvunau ena veituberi me Contextualization Of Sermon).
· Major Evangelism Programmes, need to be focused all to the youths (Ke dua na veivakalotutaki levu me caka sara ga ena loma ni Mataveitokani).
· All those that are implicated in gender-based violence or violence against children in any way need to be disciplined in a way that maintains the integrity of the Church (Me ra vakacegu saraga vakadua ko ira kecega era vakayacora nai tovo/vakarau lolovira qo).
· They called on church departments to communicate issues widely for awareness as well as full Recognition of the Men’s Fellowship including representation in conference.
· Participants also highlighted the need for the acceptance of the shift from conservative theology that has been reflected on during the workshop against violence against women, for equality between women and men and the protection of children for divisional superintendents and circuit ministers to preach at the pulpit. (Me dikevi tale mada ka vakasamataka na cioloji eda vakayagataka tiko enai ka 21 ni yabaka drau.)
· The Church Annual Conference must be bold in addressing social and political issues that affect families in a negative way, by speaking truth to power. The Church needs dialogue with the Government on the policies regarding nightclubs, internet cafés/shops, understanding and impact of a secular state. (Me vakatura na Bose Ko VIti ki na Matanitu me dikeva tale mada eso na policy, eg. Nightclub, Internet Shop, Secular State.)
As one looks at the three different reflections, commitments and recommendations, it is easy to find similar views on what needs to be done. The first step for participants is the realization that conservative theologies and mindsets need to be changed and this change must be lived out in families and groups as well as shared in the community of faith. The second is that this programme is important enough for the church to be implemented at all levels. Finally there is a call for the Church to be bold in not only speaking out on the issue but addressing the root causes and underlying structures that support all forms of gender-based violence and violence against children.
Reflecting on the workshop in his closing address, Secretary for Non-Formal Education, Rev. Semisi Turagavou challenged participants to look beyond the legal approach and cultural attitudes to the issue of gender-based violence, suggesting a situational ethics approach of focusing on the situation and looking for a long-term solution. He urged participants to not be satisfied with only dealing with the immediate situation or symptoms of the problem but to peel back the layers and look at the core, root of the issue.
This workshop is only the first step. Other workshops are planned around the country this year. It is one small step for the three departments which facilitated the workshop. Yet is also a giant leap for the Church in addressing these issues and making sure the discussion and action is taken seriously by the Church.
“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”