Church leaders sometimes cover up domestic violence, say speakers at workshop

“Women are told to pray and fast, but men are not told to stop beating their wives”

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From left: Nigerian pastor and Tusimame Wanawake movement coordinator Tolulola George, Malawian pastor Lusayo Mwanganya and director of the South African Faith and Family Institute Dr Elizabeth Hoorn Petersen. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

Church leaders should take a stand against domestic violence instead of covering up for violent husbands, speakers said at a workshop in Cape Town at the weekend.

The workshop, held by Africa Unite Tusimame Wanawake women’s movement, was to mark the annual 16 days of activism against violence against women and children.

About 60 people attended the event that was supported by various organisations such as Sister 4 sisters, Thuthuzela Care Centre, African Immigrant Church Leaders Forum and South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI). A number of Immigrant women described their experiences.

Tolulola George, co-ordinator of Tusimame Wanawake and a Nigerian pastor, told GroundUp: “We want churches to acknowledge that there is a problem of gender-based violence and stop covering up crime. The church should call the man to order, protect women from oppression and empower women to stand for their rights. “

George said sometimes church executive leaders committed violence themselves and it was covered up. Women were told: “Pray, fast, show him love, respect”. “But the man is not told to stop beating up his wife.”

Malawian pastor Lusayo Mwanganya said women must stand up for their rights. “When I officiate weddings I always tell women that showing respect doesn’t mean you have to be remote controlled,” he said.

Founder and director of SAFFI, Elizabeth Hoorn Petersen, said churches had a crucial role to play. “Women feel that the church community is where they feel a sense of community, and the worst thing that can happen is when in the church there are men that violate women.”

She said one of the women she had counselled was married to a violent man of faith who “justified his actions using scriptures”.

“He would use scripture like: ‘the man is the head of the house and the woman must submit, we are one body, we belong to each other’, but in the meantime he was doing rounds with other women.”

Petersen said after she spoke at a women’s conference she was approached by a woman who said she was a pastor’s wife and they had been married for 13 years. “She told me how her husband raped and regularly choked her. The senior leaders in the church knew about this but said they had earmarked him for national leadership because he is a dynamic charismatic pastor and has great potential for the kingdom of God,” she said.

TOPICS:  Crime Gender Religion

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