• 29 November 2021

Justice Minister addresses MU service on gender–based violence

Justice Minister Naomi Long addressed a diocesan Mothers’ Union (MU) service in St Mark’s Dundela on Saturday highlighting the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign.

This is an international campaign which takes place each year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

Throughout the campaign, MU members join with others globally to raise awareness of, and call for an end to, gender–based violence in all forms and in all societies.

Naomi Long commended MU for their work in this area and said: 

“During the 16 days of activism it is fitting that we reflect on work that has been undertaken to address gendered based violence as well as looking forward as to how we can all collectively address these issues.

“I have made it clear that progressing domestic abuse legislation is a key priority for me.  

“A new domestic abuse offence will close a gap in the current law and ensure that protection is not limited to physically violent behaviour, as at present.  It also sends a clear message that domestic abuse in all its forms, both physical and non–physical abusive behaviour, is wrong and will not be tolerated.”

MU chose Saturday 27th November as a day to gather and highlight the theme, “No More 1 in 3”, raising awareness of the fact that 1 in 3 women will be abused in some way in their lifetime.

In a powerful act of solidarity and symbolism, at 1.03 pm, the congregation joined MU members across Britain and Ireland in a 3–minute silence. The day was also marked by the wearing of purple scarves.

The rector of Dundela, Canon Helen Steed, gave a reflection on John 4: 7–26 and the Samaritan woman’s life–changing encounter with Jesus.  She said:

“We have a joint calling, a shared responsibility as Christians to support the abused and speak with a prophetic voice, challenging the structures and individuals that distort God’s creation – women and men created in God’s image.”

Practical support

MU members in Down and Dromore have observed the 16 days of Activism Campaign since 2014. For many years they have also provided support for Woman’s Aid refuges in the diocese who say that; “It really does make a difference to the women and their families.”

Since Covid, restrictions have meant that only new items can be accepted and so many bags of hand knitted adult and children’s clothing, trauma teddies, bales of towels, bed linen and toiletries have been donated together with food vouchers. One refuge alone has received almost £700 worth of food vouchers in the last two years to help those women and children in most need.

Woman’s Aid experience a high demand for their services and the expectation is that this demand will continue to increase. Only last week the Secretary General of the United Nations stated that gender–based violence continues to be the most “pervasive and pressing issue in the world today”.

Joy Silcock, Social Policy Representative for Down and Dromore MU said: “I want to thank the Justice Minster for taking time out of her very busy schedule to be with us today. We value hearing from her how changes to our law in NI will help those families impacted by gender–based violence. We in this diocese will continue to focus our prayers during these 16 days and to raise awareness and offer practical help throughout the whole year.”