Why didn’t this story make US headlines? I read about it on Hannah Thomas’ blog Emotional Abuse and Your Faith last Monday, but I didn’t grasp the significance until it was briefly an AOL headline story today. I vaguely recalled Hannah’s blog and went back for the critical links and to get the rest of the story. It took hours of digging to fit all the pieces together.
Jimmy Carter is a member of The Elders which describes itself as:
An independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela [on his 89th birthday in July, 2007], who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
The story of the Elders started in a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was a simple one. In an increasingly interdependent world ~ a global village ~ could a small, dedicated group of independent elders help to resolve global problems and ease human suffering?
. . .The Elders amplify the voices of those who work hard to be heard, challenge injustice, stimulate dialogue and debate and help others to work for positive change in their societies.
Equality for Women & Girls
One of their missions is Equality for Women & Girls. On July 2, 2009, the Elders put out a call to religious and traditional leaders to set an example and change discriminatory practices because:
Religion and tradition are a great force for peace and progress around the world.
. . .the justification of discrimination against women and girls on the grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a higher authority, is unacceptable.
We believe that women and girls share equal rights with men and boys in all aspects of life. . .
These teachings and practices have been abused by men to give them power over the female members of their families and women across their communities. . .
We all suffer when women and girls are abused and their needs are neglected. By denying them security and opportunity, we embed unfairness in our societies and fail to make the most of the talents of half the population. . .women are breaking down the barriers which have held them and their daughters for so long. . .
Men and boys will have to change their behaviour and thinking. Some women will too. But we will all gain from such changes. Societies with greater equality between men and women, girls and boys, are healthier, safer and more prosperous.
WorldWide Epidemic: Violence Against Women and Girls
A cornerstone of this initiative is to end violence against women and girls which the Elders characterize as a “worldwide epidemic:”
. . .what makes this epidemic more shocking is that the violence can be ignored and even condoned by family and community members, religious and traditional leaders and authorities. . .
In the United States, there are nearly five million assaults and rapes on women by their husbands and partners every year. . .
Ending violence against women and girls requires political, community and religious leaders to end their silence. And it needs men and boys to recognise that attacking women is a sign of weakness, not strength.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu Speaks Out
We show our manhood by how we treat our women, our girls, our mothers, our sisters. You are a weak man if you use your physical superiority to assault and brutalize women. A society that permits violence against women is a society that is on the way out.
Let us show just how we value our mothers, our sisters, our wives, the women in our community by how we treat them ~ by how we respect them.
The Elders, including former President Carter, called for an end to religious practices that discriminate against women and girls.
Jimmy Carter Leaves the Baptist Church
Like other bloggers, I am astonished this story hasn’t been picked up by the US media. On July 12, 2009, former President Carter’s op-ed piece appeared in The Observer in the United Kingdom and was reprinted without credit by The Age in Australia. He explained why he was ending his ties of 60 years with the Southern Baptist Convention:
. . .the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands. . .This was in conflict with my belief ~ confirmed in the holy scriptures ~ that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.
. . .the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. . .
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. . .
If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
. . .It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distored holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy. . .
The truth is that male religious leaders have had ~ and still have ~ an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.
Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation. . .[of] the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions ~ all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Amen, Jimmy! And, thank you for your courage.
Let’s hope the mainstream US media finds their own courage to tell this story.