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A Message from the ELCA Advocacy Network re Violence Against Women Worldwide--Act Now to Support the International Violence Against Women Act

Mariem M’bareck was wearing a vibrantly colored head covering, but it was her testimony that truly made her stand out in a crowded conference room at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last week.

M’bareck — a young woman who works for The Lutheran World Federation in Mauritania — has led an interfaith effort in her country to debunk the myth that the mutilation of girls’ sexual bodies (FGM) has grounding in religious texts. What began as an exploratory study with two religious leaders about mutilation now comprises more than 225 religious leaders advocating in their own communities against the practice, for which they found no scriptural support.
M’bareck was joined in a panel by the Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, a South African religious leader and activist who is living with HIV. The panel was organized by the World Council of Churches and The Lutheran World Federation. Rev. Mabizela demanded religious leaders address the issue of HIV and AIDS that plagues their communities. This includes acknowledging that sexual violence and gender-based subordination make women highly susceptible to infection and powerless to protect themselves from the virus.
Like so many faithful women in the Gospels, who broke free from cultural norms of gender subordination to find grace and human dignity in Jesus’ healing touch, so too do women like M’Bareck and Mabizela claim their faith in God as a tool to combat gender-based violence in their communities and around the world.
Violence against women and girls is among our world’s most pervasive forms of cruelty and human suffering. It occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures and economic classes. Women in developing countries experience particularly high rates of gender-based violence, where cycles of poverty, hunger and insecurity make them more vulnerable to violence and assault.
The cultural attitudes and stereotypes that perpetuate these systems of gender-based violence compromise women’s health and dignity; shatter individuals, families, and societies; impede women’s and girls’ full participation in and contribution to their communities; and ultimately separate each of us from our relationship with God.
M’Bareck and Mabizela joined government leaders, non-governmental organization implementers, and advocates to address gender-based violence at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, which concluded today.
As the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women draws to a close, we now commission the U.S. Congress to fight international gender-based violence.
Urge your Senators to support and co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women  Act when their colleagues introduce the legislation in the Senate-- click here to write to them now. The International Violence Against Women would provide services to survivors of gender-based violence, protect those at risk, and support women — like M’bareck and Mabizela — who are showcasing new norms of gender empowerment.
At a time when women enjoyed very little social recognition, Jesus repeatedly exalted the faithful mothers, elderly widows, and suffering girls in his midst. By supporting the International Violence Against Women Act , we can follow Jesus’ lead and empower such courageously faithful women today. Click here to write your Senators now.