Training churches to stand up for women in India
Two BMS World Mission workers are running a project to train churches in West Bengal to speak out about violence against women
“Gender based violence is a huge issue in India. No one actually knows the extent to which it is present within the Church, and the figures are massively underreported,” says Brian Leitch, a BMS World Mission worker seconded to a sister charity and working in Kolkata, India.
“But we believe it could be an issue that is within the Church as much as it is outside.”
Brian and his wife Mo are trying to do something about it, educating churches in West Bengal on the reality of gender based violence (GBV), and encouraging them to speak out.
At the very beginning of their quest, Brian and Mo were involved in training over 50 pastors about violence against women last year, as part of the BMS Dignity initiative. The vast majority of these pastors had never had any training on the subject, and the opportunity to discuss the issue was very well received.
“Most of the pastors went back and spoke in their churches about the issue,” says Brian. “And in most cases, that’s the first time anyone in the church would have heard their pastor speaking out against violence against women. That was a huge step forwards.”
But the Leitches, alongside their local colleagues and partners, weren’t content to stop there. As well as encouraging the pastors of churches to step up and speak out about the issue of GBV, they want to get whole churches involved too. They plan to work with at least ten churches in the region in the coming year, training them and helping them to come up with practical ways to engage with the issue.
The culmination of the training will coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November and Human Rights Day in December. Training with one church has already begun.
“It’s amazing working with local churches,” says Brian, “because they are the eyes and ears into their community. Being able to work with them makes the project so much more sustainable.”
The BMS team in Kolkata, in partnership with pastors, the Bengal Baptist Union and the Bishop of the local Church of North India Diocese, are working hard to make an impact this year – so that the churches they’re working with can go on to be a beacon in their communities and a safe haven for people suffering through GBV.
Through the BMS Dignity initiative, we have been dealing with GBV directly, around the world, as well as trying to engage churches in the UK with the issues and reality of GBV. It’s more than just a physical act of violence, it has deep roots in our culture and in cultures around the world. And you really got on board with our vision to speak out against it. Thank you.
“It’s so important for us to be engaging with this,” says Brian. “You look at the first book of the Bible and God is saying that he made men and women in his image. You look at Luke 4 when Jesus says he has come to set the oppressed free. And it seems like sometimes there is something within our churches that is so anti what Jesus stood for and the character and nature that we’ve pledged to live as, as Christians. And we have to be standing up against that.”
In India, Brian says that many of the churches they are working with or who have expressed an interest in the training are connected to schools and colleges. He hopes that through these links the team will be able to run a training programme for young men. Marriage counselling is also on the cards.
It’s an exciting time – but there’s lot of work to do and Brian and Mo ask for your prayers. “We are feeling our way in terms of how to get the Church practically engaged in this,” says Brian. “We’re going step by step, and some divine wisdom and guidance would be very much appreciated.”
Excited by what Brian and Mo are doing in churches in India? Why not get your own church involved, too? Check out Dignity and order a free copy of the DVD for stories of how GBV is affecting women and girls in some of the countries where BMS works, sermon and small group ideas, and compelling videos.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission