General Secretary A. Roy Medley and other American Baptist representatives are currently overseas, participating in the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, from July 5-12, 2014.
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. American Baptist Churches USA is a member organization of the BWA.
Information workshops are a mainstay of BWA meetings.
Attending a workshop on women, leadership and development, I heard the inspiring stories of three women who, with incredibly brave determination, are taking on the issues of the status of women in their communities. Each was a story from outside the United States.
One was the story of a woman from a war torn area where women are regularly raped by soldiers overtaking their villages, or are sent to walk before the soldiers where it is suspected that land mines have been planted. In this situation she has dared to speak out against these injustices at the risk of losing her own life. On a broader level, she is also an advocate for greater equality in their traditional systems, urging that women be educated and offered opportunities to start businesses and sit on village councils. What most confounded her, however, was that inequality was even practiced by the church.
The second woman is a dalit (untouchable) who became a community health worker in a Christian development project for rural communities. This woman whose very shadow as a dalit would pollute another person when it fell on them, has become a major leader in her community through the respect she has won for her service. Working in the villages she focused on empowerment of the women who were entirely subject to their husbands and their husband’s mother. The testimony, in the villages that she serves, is that women now have position and influence. They are someone.
The third is a relief worker in the Philippines. She described the way in which young girls become prey for human traffickers, and the efforts she and other women are taking to put an end to it.
Each of these three is a strong leader who yearn for women everywhere to have a status equal to men, access to education, an end to hiring and wage discrimination; but even more so equality in the life of the church.
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA