Seventh Day Adventist churches urge domestic violence victims to speak out

SDA members during  the motorcade in Moruga on Saturday.
 - Photo by Laurel Williams
SDA members during the motorcade in Moruga on Saturday. - Photo by Laurel Williams

Members of five Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) churches in Moruga held a motorcade on Saturday to highlight violence against women.

Pastor Robert Castle, head of the La Lune and La Ruffin churches, said once a person is hurt, the entire nation is hurt.

He said society is suffering and going down a negative path. In this path, hatred is trending, and nobody cares about or loves one another. “If we give their lives to God and allow Him to change our hearts, we would see a difference in the world. We would realise that we can love one another and work through,” Castle said.

The motorcade, which included members of the La Savanne, Penal Rock Road and Basse Terre churches, started at Santa Maria Village and ended at Marac Village.

Drivers honked their horns while a man on a loud speaker echoed religious messages and prayed for love and peace.

Since the kidnapping and murder of court clerk Andrea Bharatt, various organisations nationwide have held rallies, candlelight vigils and protests calling for an end to gender-based violence.

Bharatt’s death has hit and touched a nerve in people in a marked way, the pastor said, causing church members to plan the motorcade. Bharatt was kidnapped on January 29 after she boarded what she beleived to be a taxi on her way home from work. Her decomposing body was found off a precipice at the Heights of Aripo on February 4. One man has been charged for her murder and investigations continue into the deaths of two other suspects in police custody.

To abusers, Castle suggested: “There is no need to be violent against women. Study the word of God because the word presents a different picture. If you have an issue with women, you should try to work it out. Sit down and talk.”

“If you cannot sit down and talk, you would need a mediator. Get somebody who you can talk to and work through the issues and challenges.” He made the comments at the start of the motorcade at Penal Rock Road recreation ground at Santa Maria Village. SDA members also celebrated Global Youth Day on Saturday under the theme, Reaching out: Cultures, colours, communities.

Adalia Mahabir holds a placard during the motorcade in Moruga on Saturday.
- Photo by Laurel Williams

He encouraged anyone experiencing problems, including domestic violence, to report it to the police or church leaders. “They can come and speak directly to the pastor to get counselling. We offer counselling services and advice. They might receive some help from the elders.”

Sometimes victims are afraid to report it and are suffering in silence, Castle said. Saying many youths in Moruga face different challenges like the lack of employment, Castle was confident that the church could positively impact their lives.

Pastor Elick Sookram, head of the Penal Rock Road and Basse Terre churches, encouraged people to report any form of abuse.

“Do not keep it silent. Do not go through it alone,” Sookram urged during a stop at Bois Jean Jean.

He said even though many people consider women to be of the weaker sex, religious teachings show that women endure more pain and still live longer than men.

“Men are raping, abusing and killing women. God did not call us to do these things. We need to protect our women. We need to stand up for them if they are being abuse. Women are designed to be loved by men, to be protected by men,” Sookram said.

Church member Janey Joseph said the church hoped to educate all the men in Moruga that women are important and should be treated as such. “We want them to know we are equal – male and female,” Joseph said. “We have violence against women in our community. Many women complain about their husbands being abusive. In our church, we have a women’s ministry department that deals with that kind of situation.”

Members of that ministry, Joseph said, visit the affected homes and pray with the women.

There are still victims who remain silent. She encouraged them to tell someone and do not be silent.

To people in an abusive relationship, Joseph said: “Leave! Do not stay because eventually, he will kill you.” “We (the church) have shelters which I cannot disclose to you. We help as best we could.”

MP for Moruga/Tableland Michelle Benjamin joined in the motorcade and applauded the SDA community for the initiative.

Benjamin, like the pastors, said silence is not an option as it relates to violence against women.

“As a young woman, safety is paramount, and I stand in solidarity with the community here today,” Benjamin said. “We must reach out to the community; we must tell someone. We must know that we have an ear. Do not stay silent and allow the violence to be perpetrated upon you. As women, we have to stand strong, we have to know that our households depend on us.”

Benjamin said the communities also depend on women who must reach out and say enough is enough.


"Seventh Day Adventist churches urge domestic violence victims to speak out"

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