In what ways do faith-based communities connect to the movement to end sexual violence?
Faith and religious groups draw upon their own theological doctrines to find a calling to support and elevate the voiceless, hopeless and the homeless. Historically, faith-based communities have played a large role in shifting social norms and have been sites of social justice organizing. Many churches and faith-based communities believe in Frederick Douglass’ ideal of “praying with legs” –taking action to support the vulnerable to help ensure a future without callous for the least of these (Matthew 25:40-45).
Major faith-based communities are transforming their faith into action. Faith-based organizations are addressing social injustice, inequities, and gender-based violence. For example, City Pastors Fellowship (CPF) in Sacramento, California drafted a document called “Sacramento Wins” in support of the LGBTQ victims of the 2016 Orlando, Florida nightclub shooting and denounced a local pastor’s biblical rationalization for the victims’ deaths. Nationally, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Peter Morales, wrote a letter to Unitarian Universalist (UU) ministers acknowledging the human rights violations and potential violence that marginalized groups (women, the poor, people of color, and transgender people) face. Rev. Morales wants the UU church, which is known for advocacy for vulnerable populations, to provide sanctuaries and challenge human rights abuses.
Like faith-based communities, rape crisis centers and other advocacy agencies have a mission to support vulnerable communities and build spaces for resiliency and healing. These two systems have advocated on behalf of congregants and community members to ensure their safety, wellness, and growth. Theses systems have shown their effectiveness as separate entities, but if they unite their efforts, it could help augment partnerships between the inter-faith community, secular organizations and rape crisis centers (RCCs).
This is a new approach for some anti-gender-based violence agencies and an established practice for others. For example, My Sister’s House co-hosted an annual “High Tea” with the Chinese Community Church to show their solidarity to end gender-based violence. This October will mark the 10th “High Tea” anniversary. In addition, Women’s Center, High Desert Inc. works closely with St. Michael Church in Ridgecrest, CA to assist with resources, in-kind donations and the “Free To Be” support groups for the LGBTA community. Not only do they collaborate with the church but the Women’s Center, High Desert Inc. has a Chaplain from the community as one of their board members. And CALCASA and Samaritan Safe Church are partnering to develop the Faith-Based Collaborative and provide a facilitator training for clergy and advocates.
RCCs can cultivate relationships and initiate collaborations through providing presentations about their services and learning about faith-based organizations’ ministerial services. This will open the lines of communication about shared commonalities, open opportunities for cross-system trainings and learning clusters. This approach will help further strengthen efforts to influence positions and practices related to gender-based violence and community healing.