12 Mar 2013

Peru Video

Our Link visits are all finished now and, despite a lot of travelling, have been great. It's been lovely to see familiar faces again, to catch up with people, and to be able to share some of what God is doing in Peru.

10 Mar 2013

In For The Long Run

The BMS Disaster Recovery Fund is aimed specifically at helping communities in the wake of disasters, but with a focus on long term recovery rather than immediate relief. This might mean paying for trauma counselling, rebuilding businesses or replanting crops. BMS works with local partners, directly supporting people who are on-the-ground and understand the situation. For more information or to order resources focussed on the Disaster Recovery Fund to use in your church, please click here.

Baptist Minister and friend of ours Paul Smethurst is raising money for the BMS Disaster Recovery Fund by running the Milton Keynes marathon in May this year. As he trains, he is recording short video journals of his progress and some of his thoughts along the way. You can see the first of those videos below.

Please do consider sponsoring Paul as he takes on this challenge. For more information and to donate online visit his page at Virgin Money Giving.

8 Mar 2013

Women, Justice & Equality Pt. 2: Maria

Following on from the last post on Women, Justice & Equality, we are increasingly convinced that part of our role in Peru is to be seeking to address the problem of domestic and family violence.

Our first face to face encounter with this issue came late one night last July, when there was a loud banging on our front door. We opened it to find one of our neighbours, Maria*, and two of her daughters (2 & 8). She looked terrified, and explained through tears that her husband had come home drunk and was trying to kill her. She had fled through the gardens until finally she arrived at our house, and wanted to know if she could hide in our garden.We insisted that she come into the house rather than stay outside, and after blacking out the windows and giving them some food (she said they hadn't eaten for three days because her husband had spent all the money on alcohol), were able to hear a bit more of her story.

She told us that her husband had been beating her up for around ten years. She had been to the police several times to report him, but each time he bought the local policemen a bottle of beer or a plate of food and the evidence against him mysteriously 'disappeared'. Her husband had said she could leave if she wanted, but that their six children would have to stay with him. At the same time she had very few options of places to go - families tend to live in close knit communities, so her whole world was contained within a a couple of hundred square metres. As she spoke she was determined that this time she was going to get justice, and told us that this time she was going to the local judge to present her case there. As far as we know this never happened; after staying the night with us her and the children slipped away quietly the next morning, straight back to her husband.

Subsequent conversations with others in the area have helped us to realise that Maria is by no means alone. Government statistics from 2004 estimate that around 1 million women in Peru are the victims of violence every year. In addition there are approximately 9 deaths per month as a result of feminicide - the murder of women in conditions of gender-based discrimination or violence. The exact numbers of women affected are hard to come by, as a considerable proportion of cases are never reported.

Women do have rights in Peru, and the government are trying hard to see an end to this violence. However for many women, like Maria, the justice which is due to them is simply inaccessible. This is due in part to a lack of funds or corruption in the police, but also due to the complete disempowerment of many women in Peruvian society, particularly in rural areas. A government survey revealed that many women do not report violence against them because they think it is unnecessary, they are ashamed, they don't know where to go, they are scared of further violence, they think it is the woman's fault, or because they simply cannot see it making any difference. Many are resigned to the fact that this is the way life is; something to be endured as part of what it means to be a woman.

We're not sure what, if any, difference we can make in the lives of these women, but please pray for Maria and the many women like her. Please pray also for us as we return to Peru and begin the process of research and trying to work out what can be done.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Women, Justice & Equality Pt. 1

Today is International Women's Day 2013, which this year coincides with the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The priority theme of the session is the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, prompted by the needs of millions of women around the world who suffer from abuse and rape on a daily basis and have little or no legal rights or protection.

BMS have been working for some years to improve the position of women around the world; from rescuing women trafficked into the sex industry in Thailand and promoting maternal health with life-giving results in Afghanistan, to advocating on behalf of women and girls vulnerable to abuse in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nepal. This week they are asking people to join with them in praying:

For the CSW conference starting on 4 March, that the conclusions reached and decisions made would further the cause of equality and improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
For changes in the hearts and minds of men around the world and in our own country, so that prejudice, discrimination and misogyny of all forms would be eradicated.
For women and girls to be safer and more empowered to enjoy life in all its fullness in the future than they are today.
For all the BMS projects and ministries working to improve conditions for women around the world.