God cares for those who suffer, and calls on us to work with each other for the healing of the world. The United Church’s Song of Faith (2006) lifts up the church’s purpose, including “fierce love in the face of violence, [and] human dignity defended.”
Sex- and gender-based violence is deeply rooted in our cultures, institutions, and religions. It affects ourselves, those we love, and our communities, country, and world. In particular, as Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls continues, we pray that it will listen and respond to the concerns of the families, uncover the systemic causes of this violence, and provide concrete ways to address it.
Gender-based violence can be experienced in many ways. This is violence rooted in gender norms, or social expectations, that are arbitrary and discriminatory. It includes
- domestic violence and rape
- date rape
- trafficking of women and girls
- female genital mutilation
- child marriage and forced marriage
- ill-treatment of women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people in the criminal justice system
Transgender, intersex, and non-binary-conforming people, and lesbian and bisexual women, are at increased risk for violence. They may face corrective rape, forced impregnation, or physical attacks. Men and boys, it should be acknowledged, may also experience violence that stems from socially determined norms and expectations.
This type of violence does not operate in isolation. For example, racialized and Indigenous women are more likely to face violence. And women who experience domestic and sexual violence can be pushed into a cycle of poverty. For more information, see the United Nations’ Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Working to end rape and violence is an important part of creating a world where all people are valued. As a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC, a worldwide fellowship of Christian churches), the United Church takes part in the Thursdays in Black campaign against sex- and gender-based violence. Through the simple gesture of collectively wearing black, participants create an international public witness for a global movement urging an end to rape and violence.
Every Thursday, individuals and congregations are encouraged to stand in solidarity with all people who bear the scars of violence and demand an end to gender-based violence.
- Plan a worship service related to gender-based violence with the use of these resources:
- Participate in “Thursdays” in Black on a Sunday!
- Encourage your community of faith to wear black as a group on any Sunday. Take a group photo and post it to your faith community’s social media accounts. Use the hashtags #thursdaysinblack, #jeudisenoir, #UCCan, #WCC.
- If your faith community is not active on social media, e-mail your photo to cim [at] united-church.ca to be posted on the United Church’s national social media accounts.
- If you’re planning an individual action, post a photo of yourself or your small group wearing black on a Thursday to social media.
- Be present to Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and pray for the families and communities affected. Follow the United Action for Justice and Indigenous Justice Facebook pages for updates.
- Consider, as a faith community or small group, exploring rape, violence, and gender justice more deeply.
- Invite a speaker (perhaps from your local women’s shelter) with expertise about violence against women to speak with your group. Visit the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses to find a shelter near you.
- Learn more about gender justice. You may wish to start by exploring our Gender and Orientation page.
- Check out Restore: Ending Violence Against Women, an online resource designed to provide helpful information about abuse and how to respond to it in our lives, communities, and churches. Developed by the Women's Inter-church Council of Canada.
- Order Thursdays in Black buttons from the Women's Inter-Church Council of Canada and make them available to your community of faith.
Thursday in Black has its roots in the 1970s and 1980s Argentinian movement "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo," referring to mothers who protested against the policy of having dissidents "disappeared" (a term used to describe people killed during political violence). These mothers assembled in the Plazo de Mayo in Buenos Aires every Thursday to register their protest with the authorities.
Thursdays in Black was started by the World Council of Churches in the 1980s as a form of peaceful protest against rape and violence, especially that which takes place during wars and conflicts. The campaign was revived, largely as a social media initiative, by the WCC in 2013.
The United Church has a long history of recognizing gender-based violence as part of the hurt and oppression experienced by women worldwide. We stand in solidarity with all victims of sex- and gender-based violence, and celebrate initiatives (such as Thursdays in Black) which foster awareness and enable more voices to be heard.
For more information, contact: