Welsh churches assess response to violence against women

(Photo: Mateusz Stachowski)

Abusive behaviour is the staple diet of most news bulletins. Whether it's states against their citizens, adults against children or men against women, we are surrounded by this ugly narrative of cruelty.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women worldwide are victims of physical or sexual violence. And a forthcoming conference in Cardiff hosted by Gweini is taking its cue from this depressing statistic.

One in three – the church's response to violence against women - takes place on 28 January at Glenwood Church, in Cardiff, and will explore the issues of violence against women, highlighting the horrific abuse that women and girls are suffering in our society.

And if you think that this is an 'out there' problem for churches, then think again. There are plenty of informed voices suggesting that domestic violence against women is as much an issue for Christian communities as anyone else. There is plenty of evidence of misanthropy in the body of Christ - I have come across too many male church leaders for whom this is a guilty secret in their own marriages.

Largely male led and patriarchal institutions may well create the toxic environment required for this covert criminality. Some Christian men it seems are getting away with it, too many women are afraid to speak up, and more often than not church leaders are turning a blind eye.

Conference organiser Jim Stewart said: "It is therefore paramount that the church doesn't turn a blind eye to violence against women but rises to the challenge to see what we can do, how we can respond."

A number of expert speakers are lined up to raise the issues, promote debate and answer questions.

The plenary session will be led by Mandy Marshall, Co-Director of Restored, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and to end violence against women. Mandy will look at international and UK levels of violence against women; what it looks like, its various definitions, issues of power and control and what the church and Restored is doing in response

Carol Wardman, the Bishop's Advisor for Church in Society for the Church in Wales, will explore what the Bible has to say about violence against women. Mark Lyndon-Jones, Christian Vision for Men's director for Wales, will identify one of the greatest elephants in the room; namely how male church leaders handle domestic violence against women.

This conference is probably the first of its kind in Wales, shining a torch on an area of great pain and isolation. In addition to the keynote speakers, there will also be workshops and seminars led by academics and counsellors.

The conference will conclude with a short presentation from Karin Cooke, a senior leader at Freedom Church and founder of Porn Scars. This charity exists to clean up the church worldwide of pornography and Cooke will introduce its work in advance of its own conference in Cardiff later this year. Her presentation will include a three-minute video raising awareness of the issue of pornography as well as the connection between sexual violence and porn.

Stewart said: "This a pioneering and brave venture, speaking up where too often the church remains silent. There are still a few places available but I would urge people to book quickly to avoid disappointment."

One in three – the church's response to violence against women will be held on Tuesday 28 January 2014 at Glenwood Church, Cardiff CF10 1PT from 10:00 – 15:40, with registration open from 9:30.Tickets are £10 each, which will include a light lunch and teas and coffees (£6 for unwaged or students).

To reserve a place, please email Jim on j.stewart@eauk.org and send cheques to "Gweini", 20 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PT.

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