Jephthah’s Daughters, a reflection on femicide in Canada

This morning (Jan. 30) CBC released an article highlighting the startling statistics from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. The report states that in 2018 148 women and girls were killed in 133 incidents. That means a woman or girl was killed every 2.5 days last year.

An estimated 12 women and girls have been killed this first month of 2019.

How can I respond to that?

As a woman, a pregnant woman, who is bringing a daughter into the world, how can I respond to that?

As a citizen of a country that prides itself on its peace and prosperity, how can I respond to that?

As a minister-in-training who is preparing to care for a community that will likely be touched by the issue of femicide, how can I respond to that?

As a university student living in Montreal, 30-years after the Polytechnique Massacre, how can I respond to that?

The only thought that comes to mind is the well-known line from the prayer of confession: Lord have mercy, our sins are as scarlet.

And, it makes me desire a church that is willing to speak about the violence experienced by women and girls in our communities today. It makes me desire a church that preaches the uncomfortable story of Jephthah’s daughter–the nameless woman slain by her father because of a desperate promise made to God.

Is our church naming and preaching the reality of femicide, both from our scriptures and our own communities?

Can we afford to ignore the legacy of violence that our churches have wrongly justified?

Are we ready to name our part as both perpetrator and agents of change?

Are we ready to call the men in our homes and churches to task?

Of all the cases looked at CBC notes that “More than 90 per cent of those accused were men.” The report’s lead writer, Myrna Dawson from the University of Guelph expands this by explaining that, “Women are still most at risk of men that they are intimate with or who they should be able to trust.”

What kind of a church, of a community, are we creating for our children? Not just for our daughters but our sons, that this legacy has continued?

How are we uplifting the women and girls disproportionately affected by this violence? Women and girls of colour. Indigenous women and girls (this report does not include those missing women and girls). Women and girls in rural areas.

“Dawson said there are some demographics disproportionately represented in the statistics. For instance, the report indicates Indigenous women represent only about five per cent of the population, but made up 36 per cent of the women and girls killed by violence. Thirty-four per cent of the women and girls were killed in rural areas, where only 16 per cent of the population lives, the report said.”

How prepared are we to utter the names of Jephthah’s daughters, the nameless women and girls whose lives are lost pointlessly at the hands of men? Men who betray the intimacy of their relationships with these women and girls.

We call this story Jephthah’s tragedy, his foolish mistake (Judges 11:29-40). But, are we prepared to retell this story as the daughter’s injustice?

Judette A. Gallares from the Phillippines has written a wonderful rereading of the story that speaks to the women and girls sold to the sex trade by poor families in her community. Do we have Gallares’ courage to do the same in our own communities?

With hope, I pray.

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