Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Support Women and Girls in the Congo -- Announcing the Congo Sabbath Initiative

Over the past ten years hundreds of thousands of women and girls living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been victims of brutal sexual violence, leaving them with severe physical ailments such as lesions, traumatic fistuale, and HIV/AIDS. Seven in ten of these women go untreated because of inadequate medical facilities.

I am pleased to let my readers know that today the Religious Institute launched the CONGO SABBATH INITIATIVE to ask congregations to become involved in supporting these women.

We are working to develop a faith-based initiative, to complete the V-Day and UNICEF, on behalf of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, campaign titled “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource, Power to Women and Girls of the DRC.” This is a global Campaign to increase pressure at all levels to do more to stop rape in the DRC while highlighting the role of women as activists. One result of the Campaign will be the establishment of the City of Joy at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu—a center for women for women who have survived rape and torture, where they will receive medical treatment, education, leadership training, and a chance to earn income.

To learn how your congregation can get involved, please visit our web site and click on the Congo Sabbath initiative. You could decide to do an education program, raise money for the hospital and the City of Joy, offer a prayer or responsive reading (or a full worship service on violence against women), stage the Vagina Monologues, or post information about how to become involved. There are lots of ways to help a congregation participate.

I'm delighted to report that forty-five nationally recognized religious leaders have joined the Religious Institute in calling congregations to participate in the Congo Sabbath initiative, an effort to involve religious leaders and faith communities in ending violence against women in the DRC. The list includes the leadership of seven denominations and the National Council of Churches of Christ.

They endorsed this statement:

"As faith leaders we are called today to see, hear, and respond to the suffering caused by violence against women. We encourage faith communities to participate in the Congo Sabbath initiative."


*Dr. Ellen T. Armour, Director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, Vanderbilt Divinity School
*Rev. Steven Baines, Director of Interfaith Outreach, People for the American Way
*Fr. Dr. Luis Barrios, Chair of the Latin American & Latina/o Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York (CUNY)
*Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Director, Faith Voices for the Common Good
*Rev. Dr. John Buehrens, Former President, Unitarian Universalist Association
*Rev. Ignacio Castuera, National Chaplain, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
*Rev. Robert Chase, Founding Director, Intersections
*Cyra Choudhury, Executive Director, Foundation for the Advancement of Women in Religion
*Rev. Steve Clapp, President, Christian Community
*Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Regional Director, Union for Reform Judaism Pennsylvania Council
*Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship
*Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, Founder and Senior Analyst, FaithTrust Institute
*Rev. Larry Greenfield, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
*Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Director, Religious Institute
*Ann L. Hanson, Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ
*Rev. Cedric Harmon, Associate Field Director for Religious Outreach, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
*Dr. Mary E. Hunt, Co-Director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
*Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, Founder, Progressive Faith Foundation
*Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
*Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, Director, Population and Reproductive Health Program, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Former Secretary General, World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
*Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
*Rabbi Dr. Peter S. Knobel, President, Central Conferences of American Rabbis
*Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign
*Rev. Jennifer Kottler, Former Executive Director, Let Justice Roll
*Rev. Peter Laarman, Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting
*Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives
*Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churhces; Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches
*Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
*Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice
*Dr. Mercy Oduyoye, Founder, Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians; Director, Institute of Women in Religion and Culture
*Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director, Reconciling Ministries Network
*Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs, National Black Justice Coalition
*Rev. Karen H. Senecal, Clergy Project Manager, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
*Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association
*Rev. Dr. William Stayton, Professor of Sexuality and Religion, Center of Excellence for Sexual Health, Morehouse School of Medicine
*Rev. Ron Stief, Director of Organizing Strategy, Faith in Public Life
*Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
*Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Yale Divinity School
*Rev. Carlton Veazey, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
*Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Founder and Director, The Shalom Center
*Loribeth Weinstein, Executive Director, Jewish Women International
*Dr. Traci West, Professor of Ethics and African American Studies, Drew University Theological School
*Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
*Rev. James E. Winkler, General Secretary, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
*Ani Zonneveld, President, Muslims for Progressive Values

*Organizations for identification only
** List in formation

I hope you'll join this important initiative. Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of Paula Allen/vday.org

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