I am big on names with meaning—names that root us in some kind of history or hope. They have a beauty all their own. Every part of my name has one or two tie-ins to my family history. And I was deeply blessed to have my middle name—Clare—passed on to my amazing little niece—Mariclare.
This week I got an email from Uganda. Specifically, Patricia Amony, who serves on FH’s staff in Northern Uganda, was replying to a few questions I sent her about the plight of women in the community where she serves.
Remember Kony 2012? Patricia serves in communities that were terrorized by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. She’s helping them recover and rebuild after years of civil war.
Patricia painted a picture of how some women in Northern Uganda are silently protesting the way they are treated. They protest in the way they name their baby girls. Some baby girls are given names such as:
- Aol (I am tired),
- Kidega (people don’t like me),
- Akurokwee (I have waited a long time),
- Adenocan (I underwent a difficult time),
- Akanyo (I’ve persevered).
Sadly, side-by-side with these names given for protest are even more masses of men and women who believe it is completely normal for women to be abused by their husbands. They are not protesting. Rather they are part of a societal system that devalues women and are unable to envision something different.
Violence against women is so woven into the fabric of society that many actually believe that for a husband to hit his wife is a way to show her love.
Patricia said something else to me in her email. She simply stated, “ideas have consequences.” So when a culture embraces ideas such as men are superior to or more valuable than women, behavior flows out of those ideas.
So, how does the FH work in Uganda go about addressing these difficult circumstances?
- By opening up dialogue in the community about violence against women. This happens through training church leaders, mentoring husbands and wives, giving tools for stronger marriages, broadcasting radio messages to uproot the acceptance of abuse, and more.
- By providing counseling for the abused. As the adage goes, “the abused becomes the abuser.” Helping victims find a path to healing stops cycles of abuse.
- By training women on income generating businesses. When women are in abusive marriages and are unable to provide any income for themselves or their children apart from an abusive husband, they are extremely vulnerable. Equipping women with income generating skills decreases that vulnerability.
Patricia also said that it’s important to understand “how God views women and men and His intentions for all family members.”
Here are some names for women given in the Bible:
- Abigail (the father’s joy),
- Elizabeth (the oath, or fullness, of God),
- Joanna (grace or gift of the Lord),
- Sarah (lady; princess; princess of the multitude).
I am not going to pretend that every name given to a woman in the Bible had a positive meaning. Actually the cultures of the Bible were more like the Ugandan culture described by Patricia (her name means “noble” by the way!). All kinds of circumstances—both good and bad—were symbolized biblical men and women’s names. But throughout Scripture it is clear that the God of the Bible has a high view of women. That’s why these beautiful names like Abigail, Elizabeth, Joanna and Sarah were given to women. That message was a light to the Israelites, a light to the early church and is still a light to us today.
As we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S., I am thankful for men and women like Patricia who are bringing the light of God’s great love and valuing of women and men to Northern Uganda. This Good News brings rest to the weary, love to the outcast, hope for those in waiting, healing for ones facing difficulty and a new day for ones who have persevered. In doing so, we can get at the heart of the matter, because ideas do have consequences.
Please pray for FH’s programs in Northern Uganda and around the world that are seeking to address violence against women. It’s a rampant problem. Worse that you or I would like to think. You can learn more from my colleagues Esther and Karen and the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is November 25.
If your expression of thanksgiving for the Good News of God’s love shown in your life moves you to give, please support FH’s work of bringing grace and truth around the world.
Finally, take a moment to ask God to reveal to you assumptions that are prevalent in your culture that are not aligned with His intentions for our lives. As Eugene Peterson put it in The Message: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Romans 12:2 paraphrase)
And, when appropriate, don’t forget to protest in your own quiet, but convicted way.