RUNNING from November 25 — the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to December 10 — International Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, is a global campaign to focus our efforts towards working to eliminate violence against women in our families, our communities and our world.

This year, a collective wide effort by the Fiji Council of Churches (FCC) has begun to mark the 16 Days of Activism and Break the Silence Sunday.

On Break the Silence Sunday, FCC member churches will focus their attention on the issue of gender based violence and child abuse, through liturgy — prayers, scripture readings and sermons — and recommit to being violence free communities and advocates.

“NGOs and the civil society are raising this issue and we need to do this too. We should take the message to the church and address this from the pulpit,” said FCC general secretary Pastor Simione Tugi.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of the Roman Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Suva believes gender-based violence, domestic violence and violence against children are serious issues that faith communities need to be not only aware of, but also bring to the forefront of their ministries.

“Based on the research carried out by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, and also my experience with family and youth ministries, this is a real concern for faith community and the whole country. The report on the Women’s Crisis Centre, shows that we are like the number 4 country that have the highest of the case of Gender Violence, Domestic Violence, so that’s very alarming.

Major Uraia Dravikula of the Salvation Army, who is the FCC vice president, believes that while many churches have been working on addressing this issue within their own faith communities, there is a need to bring the discussion into a broader forum.

Major Dravikula said BTS Sunday is important because it brings the issue of gender-based violence and violence against children to the front and centre in the church, where it needs to be.

“We say ‘No, no, no. Let us keep it hush-hush. It is a vakamadua thing to talk about these issues’. But it is not a vakamadua to talk about this thing. It is something that we must come up with for the children and the women. They are our future.”