The Desperate Cry of Africa’s Women

by | Jan 24, 2012 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

It
is time for the church in Africa—and throughout the world—to
address abuse and injustice against women and girls.

After spending last week in the city of Masindi, Uganda, I
traveled to Uganda’s capital, Kampala, to address a women’s
conference. After my first session a woman named Florence grabbed me
and began to tell her painful story.

She had given birth to five girls during her marriage. But when
her girls were small, her husband decided to leave Florence because
she had not produced a son. He blamed her (I guess he didn’t know a
man’s sperm determines the gender of a child) and he said she had
shamed him by having only girls. He sold the family house, evicted
his wife and daughters and gave them no money for food or school
fees. Then he married again and started a new family. He got two boys
and another daughter out of the deal.

My dream is that the church—not only in Africa but
throughout the world—will stop playing in the shallow waters of
feel-good, me-centered Christianity and decide to apply the gospel of
Christ to the injustices of the world.”

Florence was not depressed when she shared her sad history. She
wore a colorful African dress and had a bright smile on her face as
she told me how Jesus had been faithful to care for her after she was
abandoned. “I had to learn to pray,” she told me. “But today my
girls are blessed and my oldest just finished her university
education.”

Florence is fortunate. Not all Ugandan women have fared well after
being abused, beaten, mutilated or abandoned. Up to 70 percent of
women in Uganda have been sexually or physically abused, and the
statistics are even higher in other African countries.

During our conference in
Kampala, my host, Constance Birungi, asked the women to gather in
small groups to discuss why Ugandan women struggle so much with fear.
Here are some of the responses they shared with us:

  • ·“We are beaten by our husbands, and then we are told never
    to report the abuse to authorities”
  • “We are denied education—boys are schooled but girls are
    told to stay home and cook”
  • “We are expected to be quiet and obedient, and we must kneel
    in the presence of men”
  • “Many of our husbands live in adultery, or they marry
    second, third, or fourth wives and bring all the children into our
    homes”
  • “We are expected to produce many children, but we do not
    have the money to take care of them—and sometimes our husbands
    abandon us”
  • ·“We have been raped and sexually abused, so we feel
    inferior”
  • “Boys are favored over girls, so we have low self-esteem”
  • ·“When we see only male leaders in the church, we wonder if
    there is a place for us there”
  • “Some men manipulate the Word of God to tell us that we must
    submit to abuse and adultery.”

Christianity is growing in Africa today, but the question remains
how effectively the gospel is impacting the culture. The week I
visited Kampala, more than 50,000 people were expected to jam the
city’s main sports stadium for a gospel concert sponsored by the
country’s largest Pentecostal church. It is easy to get a crowd
here, and the preaching is passionate, but some church leaders I know
told me privately that they are concerned that faith is often a mile
wide and an inch deep. Shallow faith, they say, cannot transform
society.

There are many social problems that are staring the African church
in the face—poverty and corruption are the most obvious—but the
shameful treatment of women is often ignored. In fact, it was only in
2010 that President Yoweri Museveni signed a law criminalizing
domestic violence. And human rights organizations say it is not
enforced.

The gospel is the answer to the problem of gender-based violence
and oppression. Jesus Christ defied the cruel male domination of His
day when he healed women, forgave them publicly, defended them from
their chauvinistic accusers and called them to be the first witnesses
of His resurrection.

But the gospel’s full power to transform
culture cannot be unleashed unless we bravely apply it to society’s
problems. In Africa—and in many other parts of the world—church
leaders have been unwilling to challenge the status quo, even though
countless women are suffering black eyes, bruised ribs, HIV
infection, acid burns and broken hearts.

Matthew 9:36 says that when Jesus looked at the multitude, “He
felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited
like sheep without a shepherd” (NASB). Another word for distressed
is harassed or abused. Jesus has always felt deep
compassion for the abuse of women, but the church has sadly been out
of touch with His concerns. We have other priorities.

My dream is that the church—not only in Africa but throughout
the world—will stop playing in the shallow waters of feel-good,
me-centered Christianity and decide to apply the gospel of Christ to
the injustices of the world.

J. LEE GRADY is contributing
editor of
Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. You can learn more about his ministry at The
Mordecai Project
.

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