Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rape Nation

Her mother is angry with her for reporting the rape to the police.
I fetched her for work today and she is struggling…. because her mother wants her to withdraw the criminal charge. She is accused of bringing shame on the family. Her mother says that her case at the police station will turn her brother into a criminal. “It is bad enough what has happened…. Why is she making things worse? “

This is a familiar story. The victim is further victimised by being asked to remain silent. In fact there is great silence in our land. South Africa is notorious for having one of the highest levels of rape in the world. Only a fraction are reported, and only a fraction of those lead to a conviction.

A recent study into rape and HIV in the rural Eastern Cape and Natal, by the Medical Research Council (MRC), has revealed the shocking statistic that one in four men admit to rape - and many have raped more than one victim. Professor Rachel Jewkes of the MRC, who carried out the research, said: "We have a very, very high prevalence of rape in South Africa. I think it is down to ideas about masculinity based on gender hierarchy and the sexual entitlement of men." ( Mail and Guardian ).

I agree with Barry .

What is wrong with us? What is wrong with masculinity? Even old-fashioned ideas about maleness suggests it’s the mens role to “protect” the so-called weaker sex. What kind of protection are we offering?
I am not in the 1 in 4 category. I have not raped a woman. Which puts me in the 3 in 4 group… But there’s no comfort in being in that group for me. I’m asking myself, what have we 3 done to make it possible for the 1 in4 to do what they have done?
How have we colluded with questionable ideas about being “men”?
How have we failed to speak out against attitudes and actions that are not respectful of women?
How have we failed to act - holding our fellow men accountable for their actions?
How can it be that 1 in 4 men have raped a women, and the other 3 know nothing about it? What is our (what is my) responsibility

I do not have easy answers. I do not know how to respond.
It sounds like a Christian evasion of responsibility to say – “I will pray about it”. But I am praying for guidance. Because we men cannot sit comfortably with this… Ever.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Pain

She was raped by her brother.

They had had visited their mother’s home to celebrate her 80th birthday. And her brother began to drink. Later that night he raped his 40 year old sister. She screamed for help, but the rest of the house remained silent. They were too afraid of his drunken violence to respond to her distress. When it was over he ran away, leaving her broken. “I trusted him… and look what he has done” she said.

This was two months ago. A charge has been laid at the police station, but since then new crimes have overwhelmed the system. And he has vanished. So she has had to glue her life back together. She went to the clinic for tests, and they have said that she does not have HIV/Aids. She now wears lots of clothes to cover herself. She drinks at night to help herself sleep. And she glues a smile on her face to get through the day.

And I grieve for my twice-weekly domestic worker. She is trustworthy, caring and absolutely reliable. When we go away she looks after our home, loves our garden, and lavishly pampers our pets. When we are not coping with the domestic chores, she comes in and organises the washing, tidies the lounge and kitchen, and packs away stuff in hard to find places. And we love her dearly. And right now I wish that I could heal the broken places in her memories and relationships.

But I cannot.
So I offer her respect and dignity in our relationship. And pray for her to know that she is loved.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Brave Woman

For millenia women have dedicated themselves almost exclusively to the task of nurturing, protecting, and caring for the young and the old, striving for the conditions of peace that favor life as a whole. ... The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just, and peaceful life for all.
- Aung San Suu Kyi,
Burma's pro-democracy leader and political prisoner, who turns 64 today and awaits the verdict on her most recent arrest.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Epitaph

I am part of a group of men who meet once a month to hold each other accountable for the way we live our lives. And the question we were asked this morning was: “What do you want written on your tombstone – and what do you not want to have written?”

As I reflected on my life I realised that I have always been a responsible person.
It was drummed into me from small: “be responsible for your sister; think carefully before you commit to something, because you will be held responsible for your actions; go and study because you are responsible for your career; choose a job that has a pension and a medical aid, because you are responsible for your old age; take political responsibility for your country; take religious responsibility for your church…….. ”

Now this is the stuff of a successful life: everyone from my generation received this information – from parents, from teachers, from the very air that we breathed. We Baby Boomers are put together like this. And have this written on our consciences: “We are responsible for this mess….” But I no longer want this epitaph. I am tired of being responsible. I am tired of taking up causes. I am tired of feeling the weight of doing the right thing.

I want to be remembered for living adventurously. Oh Yes - there have been the moments when the adventure breaks through: like the time I took the family on a two month trip as far as the northern Uganda border; like the time I asked to live and work in a cultural environment different from the one I grew up in; like the motorcycle trips and the camping trips; But underneath it all lies the sense of “being responsible”. I feel responsible for my children’s education; for encouraging my wife’s failing health; for keeping my church solvent; for living an exemplary life; and for encouraging other people to keep going. And somewhere this crushes my spirit. Something has got to give.

So watch this space?
I really do not know. I will always act responsibly…. It is my nature. But I am determined to begin to shed those things that prevent me from living with more curiosity. I want to be more adventurous, more inquisitive, and far less sure of what each day brings. For example - inside of me is a writer struggling to get out. But this is always overshadowed by life’s duties. I am determined to allow the writing to break free, even if this means being irresponsible. For example - inside of me is a creative, non-conformist. But this is crushed by the tasks of authority and seniority. I am determined to shed the shackles of institutional expectations and allow the anarchic spirit of God free reign.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Methodist Conference banned

The Fiji military government, which overthrew the democratically elected government, has ordered the Methodist Church to cancel its annual conference.

The banning of the Methodist Conference follows information that "inciteful issues are going to be discussed at the conference", police spokeswoman Ema Mua confirmed. A statement issued jointly by the military and the police said the Methodist Church could not hide its involvement in politics as part of the agenda for the August conference focused on the current political situation.

The Methodist Church is the dominant denomination among the devout indigenous Fijians, who make up 57 percent of the total population of around 840,000. The Methodist leadership has been critical of the 2006 military coup of military chief and self-appointed prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
Bainimarama has since ruled out democratic elections before 2014.

This is an obedient Church - when a body of Christ followers chooses to speak truth to the powerful and the greedy without fear and favour. So I pray for the Methodist Church leaders of Fiji.

(And I really do wish that the leadership of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa could find the same capacity to speak truth in my country. The leadership of the MCSA are still too dazzled by their rich and powerful family and friends who sit in parliament, on government appointed committees, and in the corporate boardrooms to be of any use in speaking hard truths. My Bishops and Unit Leaders are in little danger of being arrested for discussing the political issues of the day – not because we have a constitution that allows freedom of speech (we do), but because my seniors seldom critique our Nation’s political and business agenda.)
And I pray for the Methodist Church of SA – that we might awaken from our contented slumber.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


one description, by Martin Luther, of what it means to have real faith:
Auch wenn ich wüsste,
dass morgen die Welt zugrunde geht,
würde ich heute noch
einen Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Which being translated means:

Even if I knew that the whole world
was going to smash tomorrow,
Still, I would plant an Apple Tree today.