Focusing on issues related to sexuality, gender based violence and HIV and AIDS, leaders from African churches and civil society organizations engaged in lively discussions at a World Council of Churches (WCC) workshop in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Organized by the WCC’s Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (EHAIA), the workshop held from 7 to 9 July raised awareness on the given themes, inviting church leaders to enhance efforts in seeking “a world without violence”, particularly in post-conflict situations.
Participants in the workshop included theologians, women and youth leaders, pastors and priests, people with disabilities and people living with HIV. Together they strategized on how churches can work with a holistic approach that can lead to “a world that is life affirming and free from violence” resonating with the WCC’s vision of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace”.
Contextual Bible Study was used as a methodology in the workshop while addressing a range of topics such as human societies and sexuality, human rights and violence, expressions of sexuality, homosexuality, group sexuality, bisexuality, as well as gender and leadership.
Ntamon Edichi Yvette from the Alliance of Religious Leaders on AIDS and other pandemics–ARSIP in Ivory Coast, stressed that religious leaders must play a significant role in addressing realities of violence in Ivory Coast that are not so different from many other countries.
Dago Lucie, another participant from the United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast, said, “It is more than ever urgent to communicate with our children to break the silence around sexuality and provide a safe space for trust between parents and children.”
Braud Bertrand, a psychologist, said; “parents must learn to fill the gap posed by the lack of affection, while considering the alarming rate of adolescents who are today HIV positive.”
In conclusion, the Rev. Roslyn Kouai said, “the body is a fundamental element in our reflection on gender based violence; therefore, we need to reflect on our theology of the body.”
The workshop ended on a positive note with the participants committing themselves to raise awareness on sexual and gender based violence in their communities and work towards its eradication.
The participants also committed themselves to the “Thursdays in Black” initiative which, through the simple gesture of wearing black on Thursdays, campaigns for an end to violence against women.
Among other religious bodies, participants in the workshop represented the United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast, the Harrist Church, the Catholic Church, the Assemblies of God Evangelical Church (EEADCI), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ivory Coast and the Pentecostal Church. Other organizations included the Muslim Student Association (EEMCI), Christian Student Association (ACEEPCI), FATEAC- the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Christian Alliance, AELS – Evangelical Action against AIDS, Federation of Associations for Albinos’ Well-being in Ivory Coast (FOBEACI) and the Women’s Association of the Christian and Missionary Alliance of Côte d’Ivoire (AFECMACI).