Welcome to the first in a series of WWSO member highlights! The work we do to raise awareness around sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) within faith communities could not be done without the integral support of our 17 coalition members. So each month, we hope to spotlight not only the collaborative work our members have engaged in, but also their independent efforts in ending SGBV around the world.
This month, we’re focusing on Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), a Protestant Christian denomination which has worked to be on the forefront of supporting faith leaders and congregations to address the violence which is so prevalent in our world. PCUSA has proven to be an integral and active member of the WeWillSpeakOut.US coalition for the past year in our efforts to empower faith communities to Speak Out! against SGBV.
With an impressive focus on social justice, PCUSA truly ‘walks the walk’ of Christian beliefs by refusing to turn away from difficult and controversial issues like SGBV. Among their many accomplishments in this area, PCUSA recently hosted a well-attended and meaningful event in March 2015 at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City called, “Sacred and Safe: Building Capacity of Faith Communities to Address Gender-Based Violence.” This successful panel exploring the critical need for people of faith to engage in ending SGBV was catalyzed by the Rev. Diane Smalley and the Detroit Presbytery in collaboration with The Presbyterian Ministry of the United Nations, PCUSA World Mission, the Betts Foundation, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit, and the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Beyond the event itself, over 50 Presbyterian women and men were represented at the larger conference, illustrating an inspiring and collective devotion to addressing issues impacting women in the United States and across the globe.
On a global scale, PCUSA World Mission shifted their focus from ending violence against women and children to the more inclusive and focused: Stop Sexual Violence. With this initiative on the forefront, PCUSA Reconciliation Catalyst, Shannon Beck–also a member of the WeWillSpeakOut.US Steering Committee–works to connect individuals and governing bodies/entities to the work global partners are engaged in throughout the world. Together they work in areas deeply impacted by gender based violence from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where women are recovering from rape used as a weapon of war, to Guatemala, where the femicide rate continues to rise; from the Philippines, where women are frequently trafficked to other countries as victims of domestic and sexual slavery, and even still to Egypt, where global partners are addressing FGM along the Nile.
PCUSA’s impressive reach spans beyond these listed countries, touching the lives of people across the world and combating SGBV as both a local and global crisis.
PCUSA Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons, and aforementioned Reconciliation Catalyst, Shannon Beck, are also working together to launch “Courageous Conversations” as a call to Presbyterians to engage in important conversations about violence against women and children, especially sexual violence, as part of the global community.
So thank you, Presbyterian Church USA, for your inspirational stance against sexual and gender based violence, your engagement in challenging initiatives and efforts across the world, and your continued active partnership with WeWillSpeakOut.US.
For more information on Presbyterian Church USA, please check out their website at www.pcusa.org or their Facebook page, and be sure to subscribe to Reconciliation to Speak Up: Stop Sexual Violence for more updates on their work as well as frequent commentary on current cultural issues in our global communities.
Stay tuned for next month’s highlight!