United Bible Societies are using the Bible to tackle the increasing prevalence of domestic violence against women in the Caribbean.
For the women affected, their home is not the paradise many of us imagine the Caribbean to be. Although it is difficult to get accurate statistics for individual countries, the incidence of domestic violence in the region is significant and growing.
Around 33 per cent of women in Jamaica, and 27 per cent in Barbados are victims of domestic violence, and about 25 per cent of murders in the Caribbean are committed in the home. Women account for almost all the victims.
Erny Van Axel of the Suriname Bible Society, said: ‘As Christians we must stand up and let every man, woman and child know that God condemns violence. We need to help them know what the Bible says: that all people are made in God’s image and have the right to be treated with love, respect and dignity’.
In recent years, Bible Societies across the Caribbean have been trying to do just that, with a particular focus on equipping churches. They have seen encouraging results.
Mary, from Jamaica, was trapped in a violent relationship for many years, ending up in hospital many times. She was desperate, but had no idea where to turn. When the Bible Society began equipping churches, Mary received the help she needed and is starting to turn her life around. She said, ‘If only this help had been available earlier, I wouldn’t have spent so many years of my life being victimised’.
Pastors are often the first port of call for women caught in domestic violence, but, having not been given the tools to deal with this at seminary, they do not know what action to take. But now that the Bible Societies are equipping churches, hundreds of people have been trained in counselling and advice, and spotting signs of abuse. Two Bible-based booklets are used in the training, Stop the violence and I loved my body (aimed at children).
Thirteen-year-old Gabbie in Haiti was sexually abused while living in a tent city after the 2010 earthquake. She said, ‘It has helped me to understand that, if I keep quiet about what happened, there is no way to stop the violence’; ‘I’ve also learned that I don’t have to be ashamed’.
Some areas, such as Suriname and Haiti, are using radio to spread the message about domestic violence. In the next few months, the Bible Society of the West Indies is planning to start the programme in the Bahamas, where domestic violence is growing. More information from www.unitedbiblesocieties.org.