“Whatsoever God has joined together……..”
Religion and domestic abuse are two phenomena that are widespread among Africans and embedded in our culture. One is however openly embraced and acknowledged: people of all socio-economic levels, statuses and statures can shout about it from the top of the roof and are often proud of their association and contribution to its spread. There is a curtain of silence on the other. Although as prevalent and widespread as religion, domestic abuse and violence is often ignored within the society at large and amongst the church-goers. The issue is often swept under the carpet or, at best when confronted, played down with scriptures. It was once upon a time taboo to highlight one is being abused within a Christian marriage. I believe things are changing , though more still needs to be done. The truth is Christians, including Pastors, are not immune to domestic abuse and violence. Again, education and awareness is vital.
Ministers need to address the issue of domestic abuse from the pulpit as they do Prosperity and Healing. After all the bible says ‘It is my wish that you prosper and be in good health..as your soul prospers.’ Domestic abuse is a health issue that affects body and soul with lasting effect if not addressed and dealt with. Rev. Marie Fortune (Faith Trust Institute) remarked that, rather than comfort victims and hold batterers accountable, women are reminded of the permanence of marriage and the need to ‘bear the cross’ for the good of their children and family. Christian abusers should be made aware that their partners can leave them if their lives and those of their children are in danger as abusers can be coercive.
The role and impact of the church in breaking the cycle of violence should be given a higher profile. Many Christian women are suffering in silence for fear of being isolated by fellow Christians should they choose to leave. I am not advocating divorce as the obvious step to take. It is important however to mix faith with wisdom. It is important that Ministers seek advice and work closely with relevant organisations to provide structured and confidential advice and support for victims, survivors and their families within the congregation as they are encouraged to speak up and get help. After all, ’till death do us part’ does not have to be death by abuse and violence.