Lutheran leader urges churches: discuss violence against women

(Photo: Lutheran World Federation/Peter Williams)Rev. Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, addresses United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees dialogue with faith-based organizations in December 2012.

Lutheran World Federation leader, Rev. Martin Junge, has urged churches in the 70-million strong grouping to openly discuss violence against women following global outrage over a recent rape in India after which the victim died.

"Silence around violence needs to be broken, awareness needs to be raised, leadership needs to be educated, and policies need to be developed," LWF General Secretary Junge said in a letter made available January 15.

Junge sent an open letter to the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India offering prayers for strength and courage for the family of the bereaved victim and all who mourn the loss of life through such violence.

The gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December triggered global and national outrage. Protests erupted against an alarming incidence of sexual assault in the world's second most populous nation. In 2011 India recorded 24,206 rapes, 42,968 cases of molestation and 8,570 cases of sexual harassment.

Five men and a teenager are on trial facing charges over the rape and murder of the 23-year- female victim, who died 13 days after the crime in a Singapore hospital from her injuries.

The student and her male companion were attacked on a bus in New Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died of her injuries at a Singapore hospital about two weeks later.

The United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India says it has 11 member churches with a membership of some 4.5 million people.

Many in India are calling for tougher laws against crimes related to violence against women.

The case of the young woman reveals "the implicit violence enshrined in unjust gender relationships will recurrently break through and find explicit expression in actions of violence," noted Junge. "This is what women around the world experience in their own lives, and sometimes they have to pay with their very lives.

"However, what is different in the case that has moved me to write this letter is the way in which the Indian civil society broke the silence and expressed its resolved view that violence and rape cannot be tolerated any longer and that things definitely have to change."

He added, "We praise God for this reaction, which stands in stark contrast to the attitude of denial and silence that so often prevail in similar cases."

The letter to the umbrella for the India's 11 LWF churches encourages them to support civil society in the evolving "courageous step" towards the transformation needed so that situations such as the one experienced by the young woman "are eradicated forever."

Junge cited a document from the Geneva-based LWF, Churches Say "No" to Violence against Women, to the Indian church leaders which has been translated into four Indian languages.

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