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When men repent

The power of repentance

'We stand here as men and salute you. We salute you women for all that you have achieved in spite of the discrimination you have faced and the violence and abuse you have suffered,' began the appointed male representative to feedback to the women present. He continued, 'we also want to repent. Repent for the times we have remained silent about the abuse and discrimination, or when like King David in the story of Tamar, we have not acted when we could have done. We ask for your forgiveness.'

Courage for Change

With a title of Courage for Change you sort of know that you are expecting to be challenged. If you read my blog earlier in the week (see here) then you know that this was a test of me taking action and being prepared to be challenged and trusting God for the rest. The title was important because we were dealing with the sensitive issue of gender based violence in the Indian culture and context.

Tamar

The day began with some amazing biblical insights into the story of the raping of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Having led studies on this myself it was refreshing to get new insights into the story from a New Testament Scholar and Theologian Havilah Dharamraj. Havilah was able to draw out key points as well as relate the story back to well known stories within the Indian cultural context.

One key point that stood out to me was the story really starts with Bathsheba and David and ends with the death of Absalom. When David kills Uriah and takes Bathsheba to be his wife (she has no choice in this as David is the King) and the Prophet Nathan challenges David on this with a story (2 Samuel 12). At the end King David is furious and that the man must pay four fold. What we see from then on in is this four fold calamity come on David's household. Firstly Bathsheba's child dies, Tamar is raped, Amnon is killed and then Absalom is killed. What we see here is the significance of rape being considered as death alongside the three other deaths that take place. The passage tells us that Tamar lived as a desolate woman afterwards.

Responding vulnerably

Leading on from this biblical perspective I focussed on our identity in Christ - loved, restored, forgiven, part of a family etc. Noting that both men and women are made in the image of God. When we violate a woman we violate the very image of God. After a session outlining GBV and rape and myths, Sheryl Haw from the Micah Network, facilitated a space for women and men to respond to what they had heard. We split into separate groups. The women were able to say that they understood how hard it was for men to give up power, that it would make them feel uneasy yet we women would pray for them, encourage them. We also asked men to speak to other men about the issues of violence against women. It was in this context, and after the woman spokesperson had finished, we heard the men respond with this.

'We stand here as men and salute you. We salute you women for all that you have achieved in spite of the discrimination you have faced and the violence and abuse you have suffered,' began the appointed male representative to feedback to the women present. He continued, 'we also want to repent. Repent for the times we have remained silent about the abuse and discrimination, or when like King David in the story of Tamar, we have not acted when we could have done. We ask for your forgiveness.'

There was a pause. I could feel myself holding back the tears. It was genuine, heartfelt and real. There was a tangible spirit -filled moment of release. Our voices had been heard at last. The pain, the heart-ache, the isolation, the loneliness and all the things that violence brings, on a pathway to being heard and understood.

Weeping

Speaking to other women afterwards, there were a quite a few who were weeping on hearing the men's words. Some had never heard men stand up for women's issues before. For some this was the first time. It was a breakthrough. It was powerful. It was restoring. It was redeeming.

The start of a journey

It is a process. It is a long journey. Today was the start. An important starting point to move forward, take action and have the courage to change. It starts with me. Today the breakthrough started with repentance.

Mandy is blogging from the Call to Compassion Conference in Mumbai, India