13 Apr Victimized yet Victorious
“The treatment of women serves as a thermometer to check a nations spiritual temperature”. These words of wisdom are very much true of any nation as millions of women across the globe are victims of unethical cultural practices, degrading social systems and adulterated moral values.
Holy Bible never hides men’s cruelty against women. Sometimes the stories in the Old Testament are left with out any feelings of the victims and many times even without any conclusions.
Hagar, despite of her no fault, was driven out into desert along with her son due to Abraham’s impatience and Sarah’s displeasure. Dinah, daughter of Jacob was raped and there by we see fatal consequences. Tamar was a victim of male injustice. Another Tamar, Daughter of King David was raped by her brother Ammon for no fault of her.
During the initial days of the nation of Israel as recorded in the book of Judges, only women Judge Deborah has excelled in saving the nation. But as days progressed women were treated like animals and sometimes even next to them. We see the decline of moral, spiritual, social, religious lives of the nation of Israel as the word clearly says “ In those days Israel had no King; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 19:1; 21:25.
Ultimate example of women being victimized was recorded in Judges 19:1-30vv. We read this with a heavy heart as we come across a concubine of an unnamed Levite being neglected, abused, gang raped, killed and finally butchered in to 12 pieces and sent piece by piece to the 12 tribes. Often this text is called as ‘Text of Terror’.
To cut the long story, a Levite from a remote area of a hill country of Ephraim takes a concubine from Bethlehem. She leaves him and goes back to her father’s house. But the Levite comes back after 4 months and takes his concubine and he is on his way to the hill country. During the night stay in an old man’s house at Gibeah, wicked men of the city gather round the house and demand for the Levite to be brought out for homosexual act.
The old man of the house comes out in defense of the Levite and bargains two women (his own daughter and Levite’s concubine) in place of one man. He even asks the wicked men to do whatever they wished of the women. The Levite who pledged to protect his wife drags her out and disposes her into the hands of sex hungry mob. The Levite seems to be sleeping inside with out any concern for her as the wicked men abuse her and gang rape her through out the night at a very close distance from the Levite’s hiding place. He neither went to search for her nor even wait for her return but sleeps with a cold and uncaring heart. When he finds her at the doorway at the daybreak he takes her on his donkey to his native place and cuts her in to 12 pieces and parcels her body to 12 tribes. He shows no respect for her and treats her as animal to be sold at meat market.
The story is very much true even today in our country. According to “I AM NIRBHAYA” , India is one of the most dangerous countries for Women and Children. The brutal gang rape of a 23 year-old girl often referred to as ” Nirbhaya”, in New Delhi on December 16th, 2012 sparked nationwide protests over the security of women and the status of women’s rights in India. We will never forget! Crimes against women reported every two minutes in India. These are only the reported cases. Millions of crimes go unreported. These crimes range from Rape, Marital rape, Dowry deaths, Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment at the workplace, Street Sexual Harassment, Domestic Violence, Kidnapping, Assault, Honor killings. Around 25,000 Rape cases are reported every year. Child sexual abuse cases are on the rise every year. 100 million people, mostly women and girls, are involved in trafficking in one way or another, according to former Indian Home Secretay Madhukar Gupta, Up to 50 million girls are “missing” over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide. 44.5% of girls are married before the age of 18.
But the other side of the coin is encouraging, comforting and challenging. The Great Grand Gospel of Jesus Christ has brought the necessary change. Gospel has not only transformed individuals but it has also redeemed culture from its unethical practices, has brought back standard for social systems and stood for unadulterated moral values. Men and women who are redeemed by the gospel started valuing women as they too are made in the image of God. They started protecting, caring, respecting and empowering women in all the spheres of life that includes social, culture, media, democracy, dalists, tribes, untouchables etc.. we will look in to at least two areas.
In the educations sphere, the opening of elementary school system, colleges and hospitals for Indian women was undoubtedly the effort of the Christian mission. The coming of missionaries from America in 1857 and their financial resources facilitated the development of medical and social work in India. In 1842 they started first school in Himalyan Region. And at the end of 19th century there was general consciousness among Indians to take up the work of education for them. Apart from Catholics various denominations of protestant church like the Church Missionary society, American Presbyterian Mission, American Methodist Episcopal Church, Baptist Church, The Oriental Missionary Society etc were present in the region.
In the social reformation sphere, William Carey and his team studied Indian languages and translated Bible. In 1802 ,Bengali translation of Mahabharata and Ramayana was published by Carey. In 1818 Bengali newspaper was published in vernacular language as a means of social education. Carey’s contribution as a social reformer is unforgettable. He pioneered the movement that led to the abolition of the inhuman practice of Sati. He relentlessly fought against other social evils such as infanticide and caste system. Alaxander Duff played significant role in the foundation of Calcutta University and influenced the thinking of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. St. Xavier’s college (1835), La Martiniers in 1836 etc are among few colleges that missionaries started as part of their contribution to the society.
It’s a blessing and inspiration to remember few women who fought for the reformation of the society. Pandita Ramabai was an Indian social reformer, a champion for the emancipation of women, and a pioneer in education. She acquired a reputation as a Sanskrit scholar who fought for the abolishing of child marriages in India .Amy Wilson Carmichael was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for 55 years without furlough and wrote many books about the missionary work. She fought for the abolition of temple prostitution in India. Ida. S. Scudder was a third generation American medical missionary in India of the Reformed Church in America. She dedicated her life to the plight of Indian women and the fight against bubonic plague, cholera and leprosy. She founded the famous CMC at Vellore and died in 1960 in our country.
Very often we argue, criticize and even fight over few trivial issues, forgetting the enormity of need around us in terms of uplifting women. We should fight together as the body of Christ against the ever increasing atrocities committed on women and children in our society. Women are surely victimized in any nation across the globe but they are also victorious and thanks to the Great Grand Gospel and for its transforming power.
Surely the retreatment of women talks volumes about the spiritual temperature of a nation, church and even our own organization. How are we doing?
Thanks to Fr. Norvy Vithaythil VC for his contribution on the subject ‘Indian church contributions to the field of social works’