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Vicar's Musings for The Fourth Sunday of Easter

11 May, 2014

Today is Mother's Day, a day to remember our mothers and to give thanks for mothers everywhere. For most it is a day of remembering, of celebration and of joy, but today it is important that we also remember the suffering mothers of our world. One group of such mothers is particularly on my mind. Just under a month ago some 200 heavily armed men forced their way into a girls' boarding school in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok, and abducted 270 female students. Earlier this year the same group attacked another rural boarding school in Yobe killing 29 men, but spared the lives of the girls on the condition that they go home and get married. The perpetrators of this violence belong to a puritanical Islamic organization called "Boko Haram" — a phrase in the local Hausa language that means "Western education is forbidden." Although US intelligence services are now assisting the Nigerian government in freeing the girls the task is gargantuan, as the group has retreated into the forest and is threatening to sell the girls into slavery.

Violence and abuse on this scale is truly horrific, but it is an issue on our own doorstep too. The Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police, Ken Lay, recently wrote on his blog: "Violence against women is rampant. In Victoria, in the year up to March 2013, there were nearly 20,000 recorded offenses of family violence. In the previous two financial years, the Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service received more than 50,000 calls to its crisis hotline in Victoria alone .... [World Health Organisation] studies found that 1 in 3 women worldwide had been either physically or sexually assaulted. Linger on that statistic. It's appalling. Violence against women everywhere is very, very common."

So, today we remember and pray for mothers, and others, who are living with the threat or the aftermath of violence. Prayer is good — vital — but in the epistle of James we are reminded: "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:17). It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such problems, but there are concrete things that each of us can do to make a difference. Ken Lay concludes his reflection with a strong message for the men: "So, guys: take a stand. Examine your own behaviour and attitudes." The Diocese of Melbourne takes this issue very seriously too, and on Friday 23rd May here at St Peter's Archbishop Philip Freier and Ms Andrea Coote, Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Community Service, will launch a report on the first two years of the Diocesan prevention of violence program: "Nudging Anglican Parishes to Prevent Violence Against Women." The Revd Dr Stephen Ames, program chair, said in a recent media release: "Jesus Christ gives us the example and vision as well as the grace for living with peace, not violence, in our hearts, our homes, our neighbourhoods, our institutions and our wider culture. We all need to learn and relearn this, including the Churches." Our own parish Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW) co-ordinator is Liz Prideaux. Do speak to Liz after church, or contact her through the Parish Office, if you would like to get involved.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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