Our values as people of faith call upon us to open our arms and minds and embrace our sisters and brothers whoever they might be, whatever walk of life they might come from or difficulties they had to endure.
We are an integral part of the communities we are called to serve, and our responsibility is to embrace their suffering and ease their pain and transform those power structures responsible for oppression and exploitation.
When it comes to discrimination, women and girls suffer the most; particularly those part of historically marginalised groups. Because of a patriarchal system that exacerbates conflict and prejudice a staggering percentage of women and girls around the world are violated or silenced every single day. Their gender puts them at higher risk of violence, exclusion, poverty and death.
We are on the side of those who suffer, those who are neglected and discriminated.
When a fellow human being is hurt, in distress or is left behind, we as religious leaders have a responsibility to act.
Globally, 12 million girls each year get married before the age of 18 – roughly 33,000 every day, or one every two seconds. 16 million girls ages 6 to 11 will never start school, compared with 8 million boys. 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, in some countries the percentage rises to 70 per cent. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual violence report higher rates of depression, higher risk of maternal health problems and acquiring HIV.
These are only some of the distressing data on how we are leaving women and girls behind, and by doing that we are reducing the chances for their families and communities to grow and thrive. A family cannot be healthy if a woman is being battered or if a girl is being violated or married off at young age. In order to guarantee a healthy family, we need to guarantee the full implementation of women’s rights.
But gender injustice does not only affect women and girls. Toxic prejudice and unrealistic expectations are also impacting men and boys, among others. Many young men consider violent and risky behaviours a pre-requisite of being “manly. “This also applies to the prevalent need for men to control women in intimate relationships as a way to affirm their masculinity.
We need to break this cycle of injustice.
Communities around the world trust us to be their moral compass. We have a crucial role to play when it comes to promoting justice and teaching values.
It’s our call. It’s our responsibility. For we are tasked by God to feed, shield and love those who need us the most.
We must be on their side. Without prejudice nor judgement as we are one in humanity.