Sunday in Black. Sermons by Sermon by Dr Claudine Hingston and Mrs Sonto Buthelezi 29 August 2021

Today we mark Sunday in Black as we highlight the scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and recommit ourselves to work for a world without violence and rape.

7.30 Dr Claudine Hingston

9.15 Mrs Sonto Buthelezi

Maximum attendance at each service is 50 persons. The full Service Slides may be found on our website.

A video regarding vaccination, received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team, to be played at each service can be found here.

Readings: Galatians 5: 16-26; Psalm 43; Matthew 12:33-37

Sermon by Dr Claudine Hingston

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ. My message today is focused on gender based violence in South Africa and I will link it with the reading from Galatians. Gender-based violence is a profound and widespread problem in South Africa and has even been viewed as a Pandemic in the country Although both men and women can perpetrate as well as experience gender based violence, the reality is that men are most often the perpetrators whilst women and children are usually the victims.

South Africa holds the shameful distinction of being one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman.  Indeed, South Africa has a high rate of intimate partner violence and a high rate of rape and sexual offences. Statistics show that a person is raped or sexually abused every 25 seconds and that 25% to 40% of South African women have experienced sexual or physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime. It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning to read. Such realities have resulted in South Africa been referred to as the rape capital of the world.

Intimate femicide is also rampant as a number of women have been killed by intimate partners and other male figures in their lives.  In fact, statistics show that a woman is being murdered every four hours in South Africa, which has resulted in South Africa earning the unenviable title of a femicide nation.  Recently, a 23-year-old law student Nosicelo Mtebeni was murdered by her boyfriend. Her remains were found dismembered in a suitcase and her other body parts were found in a plastic bag inside a house. Another young lady, 27-year-old Samantha Zungu, who was also eight months pregnant was recently beaten to death by her boyfriend. Older women have also not been spared. Last week, a 99 year old woman had her throat slit by a middle aged male. The list of women who have died at the hands of men is endless.

Death, physical injury, severe mental health problems, disability, scarring, trauma, dysfunctional relationships are just some of the many negative effects of gender based violence on women. When we reflect on gender based violence in our nation, we cannot help but ask ourselves this question – Why will some men, men who are our brothers, our husbands, our fathers, our uncles, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, commit such grievous acts against women? The answer is simple. Men who commit such acts are led by the desires of the flesh and therefore engage in acts of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 states that the acts of the flesh are obvious – sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. As human beings we often allow our actions to be guided and controlled by the flesh. This is what is happening in society today and in wanting to gratify the desire of the flesh, men engage in gender based violence acts against women.

The spiritual aspect is missing in the lives of such men and as such the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit. Godly things have been replaced with worldly and carnal things. The hearts and minds of perpetrators of gender based violence have been consumed by the flesh. They have lost their way and are no longer guided or walking by the spirit of god. Brethren, I therefore implore you, keep in step with the spirit.  Do what is right and good. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide your path and do not give in to the acts of the flesh. I know that there are good men in this church and out there, men who cherish women, men who will never lift a finger against a woman. To these men, I say thank you and I would like to encourage you to serve as role models for boys and men in our society.

As a church, we have a greater role to play in nurturing the spirit of God in the men in our society.  We need to get our men to start walking in the spirit.  For, if they walk in the spirit, they will not as stated in verse 16 -17, gratify the desires of the flesh as the spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh. We need to pray for the spirit to overshadow the flesh.   We need to encourage the men of South Africa to embrace the fruits of the spirit which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It stands to reason that a man who is kind, loving, joyful, good, faithful, gentle and has self-control will never commit acts of gender based violence against a woman. Men who belong to Christ will not engage in such acts because like Jesus, their flesh has been crucified along with its passions and desires.  As a church, let us strive through prayers and actions to guide men in our society along the path of righteousness, that they may seek to gratify the spirit rather than the flesh. To all present here today, please, let us make a conscious effort to fight gender based violence. Gender Based Violence affects all -young and old, black or white, rich and poor, rural or urban. Do not look away. The next victim could be You, your Daughter, your Aunt, Your Niece, your Cousin, your Colleague or your friend. So, let us all do what we can to curb it and let us start by first walking in the spirit and encouraging others to walk by it too. God bless you all.

Sermon by Mrs Sonto Buthelezi

I greet you all in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We live in a time where words count for less each and every minute. As the hand of the clock ticks, a body drops from being bludgeoned; or is cut into pieces and “packaged” into a suitcase; or perhaps as little girls and boys go missing to and from school only for their decomposed bodies to be unwittingly discovered in shallow graves or along streams or even dumping sites.  As the hand of the clock ticks on further, with each tick, comes the deafening scream of a woman being sexually violated. Raped. Raped and brutally killed. Each passing minute brings with itself a punch into a fragile helpless body. Even as this body lies there defencelessly, no mercy is shown; the punches gain strength with each strike and become more lethal with each blow. This goes on indefinitely until the only sound that is heard is just the ticking of the clock. Dead silence becomes a reality. Sadly, once again and again and again and again…

Nothing happens when we keep talking or speaking out but our words are void of action. What I have shared above is a mind of an activist who this morning wants to emphasise that indeed, we live in a time where our words, each of us, are useless if we do not supplement them with any action.

As part of our Sunday worship, we are today called to reflect on the scourge of gender based violence (GBV) and how this is debilitating our society. Earlier this month during our Women’s Day service, Mama Linda Zama shared the historic heroism of women who gathered from all walks of life to march and protest against those things that were oppressing them (and other members of society). Many decades later, even to this day, we see women still protesting against oppression. What is it that society is not getting? What is it that governments are not understanding? Why are women pleas dismissed?

There are so many dynamics that one speaking on the issue of GBV can raise. These have been interrogated individually and collectively at many platforms. Trends and statistics have been mapped out. Reason has been brought into the mix. Critical thinking and analysis of psychosocial systems has been applied. Compassion and rehabilitation exercised. Still however, each day the statistics of GBV soar higher and higher. What is it about our society that repels against justice for the oppressed? What has caused our morals, values and standards to be synonymous with complacent attitudes? Why have we allowed, and continue to allow our tolerance levels for unacceptable and gruesome crimes against gender to drop. Why does it seem as though we are making space in our society for GBV to have a comfortable seat? GBV is and has become so normal that we are at times almost immune to it. These are but a few questions that we can each ask ourselves as we all consciously engage in the dialogue of fighting the scourge of GBV.

It is a personal belief that, for as long as we do not narrow down the issues of GBV to an individual and personal scale, we will continue to fight a losing battle. Many decades from now, our children and their children will still be chanting slogans and coming up with terms and catch phrases relevant to their time but yet again, like in our lifetime with our hashtags, yield no desirable outcomes.

One of the many dilemmas in narratives that attempt to change the discourse of crimes against especially women and children, are the many faces that GBV has acquired. There is a fragmented image of GBV that presents itself on ethnic, cultural, religious, socio-economic, socio-political, psycho-social and many others derived through careful research and analysis of the problem of gender studies.

In essence therefore, we have different outlooks and understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable on the issues of GBV. What is right for this segment may be totally wrong for another and yet all of us within these silos are working towards a common goal – fighting against GBV. And in our fight, we furthermore fight against each other because of nuances highlighted earlier. There is no unity in our struggle – we need to find that unity for in unity there is success.

The only way to present ourselves unified, speaking in one voice and being understood, is if we collectively reflect on one truth. For us as the Christian body, there is only one truth and that is Jesus. If then, in our activism we fail to reflect on Jesus, being the way, truth and life, we will continue to miss the mark. In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus equipping us with tools of getting our current and future generations out of a repetitive cycle of this criminality that sees especially women and children being basically hunted and slain. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour who said to us to love him, is to keep his commands, is saying to us this morning that, we are to be very careful what we store up in our hearts for this is exactly what we impart everywhere we go. What is on our hearts on matters of the many dynamics of GBV, for example culture and the others, is what we perpetrate through our own words and actions. These thoughts that we share on matters relating to how we treat people in general and how we respond to the scourge of GBV are present in us daily. These manifest in our conversations, in our outlook, in our actions or non-actions. The most critical place that what we have stored up in our hearts manifests is in the way we raise up our children. We mould our children on the basis of what is stored up in our hearts. This speaks to the current and future generations. If we can reflect on Christ and learn from his character on how to respond to GBV then we can surely make a good tree of ourselves and therefore bear good fruit. But if we fail to heed the teachings of Christ then we unfortunately suffer the consequences of what we have sown, in us and in our future generations.

Whatever our stand is on GBV, let us go back to Jesus and check ourselves on his reflection. Is our silence synonymous with his character? Are our actions of activism informed by a Christ-like character? For if we are nothing but a brood of vipers with evil thoughts stored up inside of us then all we will do is teach the current and future generations to have an evil outlook and response to GBV. Let us then go to Jesus for a unified approach to fighting GBV, one that will start with us individually and gradually gravitate to all society. A teaching that rests on purifying meditations, thoughts and actions so that when we respond and fight against GBV, it is informed by Christ himself shining through his love where there has been death and suffering; confusion and violence; a lack of understanding and awareness. We are today called to filter our thoughts and meditations through Jesus so that our actions are reflective of who he is in our lives and in his kingdom.

If we can be advocates for Christ-like lives, then we can equally be advocates for GBV. The character of Jesus is one that stands for truth, upliftment and empowerment of all, but especially the marginalised, downtrodden and those stripped of justice. The greatest command that Jesus spoke of was that we ought to love God first wholly and then one another. If we exercise this command then we rid ourselves of storing and harbouring evil things in our hearts that bring harm to any of us. We also gain strength to stand up and fight for what is just, right and admirable. We exercise gentleness and self-control as we read in Galatians Chapter 5. If we all live by the Spirit then indeed we will all be of one mind, speak in one voice and deliver the same message on GBV. Most importantly we ourselves will act in accordance with the purity that is stored up in our hearts. This accordance draws us near to the wounded and prompts us to stand with and for them, so that the judgement that is being cried out for in Psalm 43 is made manifest through our advocacy that is informed through us reflecting on Christ. In this way, those who weep receive justice, love and comfort. And also so that, those who are perpetrators, through our advocacy informed by Christ, can turn away from sin and start a new journey reflective of the truth that Jesus binds us all to himself with. Our thoughts, our actions and our words – let them be bound to Christ and our own persons too bound to Christ.

 

 

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