(PNS) ― Many readers know of someone in their family, congregation or community who has been impacted by domestic violence in one way or another. To address the topic that is not often discussed or preached from many pulpits on Sunday mornings, the Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support Ministry created the Gospel, Pastoral Care, and Domestic Violence series, an educational encounter series that addresses domestic violence and the faith community.
“This is a conversation that started with a group of women, pastors, ministers, elders, commissioned elders in Puerto Rico, along with some Presbyterian Mission Agency staff last year,” said the Rev. Rosa Blanca Miranda, Associate for Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support. “With COVID people were forced to be in the house together without being able to go out. Domestic violence increased in communities and within families. There was silence. This is something that has been part of a stereotype within the Latin community. But domestic violence goes across cultures, countries and families.”
A 2021 report by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice shows that domestic violence incidents in the U.S. increased by 8.1% following the imposition of lockdown orders during the 2020 portion of the pandemic.
The Council on Criminal Justice findings are based on a systematic review of multiple U.S. and international studies that compared changes in the number of domestic violence incidents before and after jurisdictions began imposing stay-at-home restrictions in 2020. The studies draw on a wide range of data, from logs of police calls for service to domestic violence crime reports, emergency hotline registries, health records and other administrative documents.
The four-session event began in March in support of Women’s History Month. Forty-two leaders in the Hispanic church community committed to participate every Tuesday. “I was so glad to see that we didn’t lose anyone,” said Miranda. “They were there every single time. And even though this a time to talk about domestic violence and violence against women, at the end we could open up to talk about other violence in a broader way.”
“The church cannot continue to be silent on the issue of domestic violence,” said Miranda. “Like the women in Puerto Rico, they couldn’t be silent any longer. Something needed to be done.”
In 2021 the Presbiterio de San Juan issued an open letter calling on the Church to “unite our voices against gender-based violence in Puerto Rico both in public demonstrations and from our pulpits.”
“That’s why this event was sponsored by the Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support office,” Miranda said.
The themes for the series included
- What is violence?
- How violence in society and in our world also has an impact on our faith communities as well as our own families.
- How we read Scripture in contexts of violence.
- How our churches can become safe spaces for healing.
- How to build relationships that are equitable.
According to Miranda, one of the goals of the weekly educational encounters ― that’s how she introduces each session ― is to offer a safe space to talk about those issues. Individuals can come from different journeys, from different perspectives and from different theological ways of thinking about and interpreting the Bible.
“This is a safe space to feel uncomfortable, but we are going to talk about those topics that need to be addressed from the pulpit ― from Bible study, from counseling, from any way possible in our faith communities,” she said.
“We’re going to open up our faith communities and include everyone and every person that suffers from violence and see that person as a child of God ― not in a judgmental way, because that’s not what we are called to do,” said Miranda. “These were rich presentations, but also it was a place where leaders opened up to talk in a deeper way. My prayer is that we may be able to speak freely and sponsor an event in which we could not only talk about the violence against women, but violence against the LGBTQIA community as well, or at least how our faith communities can be or become safe spaces ― welcoming, radical welcoming places for communities or churches for all our siblings.”
For additional information on domestic violence in the Hispanic community, Miranda says her ministry partnered with CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America. CEDEPCA is an educational institution that contributes to the transformation of lives and contexts by providing training and accompaniment and by offering spaces for reflection to women and men from diverse Christian traditions, communities, and contexts.
Click here for resources as well as the videos of the Encuentros Educativos (Educational Meetings) presentations. Find all four sessions in the series The Gospel, Pastoral Care and Domestic Violence below:
March 8: Gospel, pastoral and domestic violence (Evangelio, pastoral y violencia intrafamiliar)
March 15: The Church and pastoral, towards a therapeutic community (Iglesia y pastoral, hacia una comunidad terapéutica)
March 22: Contextual reading of the Bible in contexts of violence (Lectura contextual de la Biblia en contextos de violencia)
March 29: Building equitable relationships (Construcción de relaciones equitativas)
by Gail Strange, Presbyterian News Service