Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures

The Stoning of Soraya M has now been released, and while I haven’t seen it yet, it has already impressed me for several reasons. It stars Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in The Passion of The Christ.  Caviezel is a devoted Catholic and a courageous actor who boldly integrates his Christian faith with his vocation as an actor. The movie tells the true story of an Iranian woman who was stoned to death, the victim of a conspiracy by her husband to brand her as an adulteress, when in fact it was he who was pursuing an affair with another woman.

It is very unusual for a Hollywood movie to expose the often brutal treatment of women anywhere in the world, but particularly in Islamic countries. It is estimated that five thousand women and girls are killed each year in the Muslim world to restore a warped sense of family honor. Women may be shot, stoned, poisoned, beheaded, stabbed, or strangled. Considered a family matter, these crimes often go unreported. Many times the victim’s body ends up in an unmarked grave, as if the woman never existed. While precise figures are unavailable, some estimate that 25 percent of all homicides in Jordan are honor killings. In Pakistan, an estimated three women die every day for reasons of family honor.

Family honor is one of the prime values in Arab-influenced societies. A woman is often seen as a man’s possession, as a commodity. Thus, her behavior is a reflection on his honor. If her behavior (assumed adultery, premarital sex, even flirting, or as a victim of rape) brings dishonor on the family—a husband, father, or brother—he or another relative may kill the woman to restore that honor.

The reviews I’ve read have tended to focus on the brutality against women in Islamic countries like Iran. This is unfortunate. As Jim Caviezel himself reminds us in an interview, in the United States over 20 million abortions have been performed on infant girls since 1973, or about 2,000 every day. Abortion reflects a value system that respects women only when they can compete with men within the workplace. An empty womb allows a woman to do that. Because men do not become pregnant, abortion rights supporters believe it is unfair for women to be “forced” to carry a baby to term.

At the root of all violence against women, either in the West or the East, is a lie—that men are superior to women. Women, whether they are wives in Iran or unborn infants in America, are treated as property to be disposed of at will. The biblical worldview, by contrast, sees both men and women as image-bearers of God with equal dignity and value. Jesus modeled this belief system in how he treated women, which is why women flocked to the early church.

The Church has a responsibility to model this worldview and value system to the watching world. We also have a responsibility to speak out against the violence and brutality against women wherever we find it. Praise to the makers of The Stoning of Soraya M for doing this.

For more on this topic, I strongly urge you to read Darrow Miller’s powerful book, Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures, and of course, see the movie, The Stoning of Soraya M. In the trailer, the mother of the young woman who is stoned pleads with a French journalist, played by Caviezel: “The voices of women do not matter here. I want you to take my voice with you. The world must know.” As followers of Christ, this is our task.  “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Check out a review for the movie here.

-Scott D. Allen

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Equipping the Church to transform the world
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3 Responses to Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures

  1. Bob Evans says:

    This article is especially poignant at the moment in light of a recent incident in the Phoenix area, home of the DNA, USA office. In mid July there was a horrific incident that I read of in Phoenix papers while I was vacationing in Arizona. As I remember the details, an 8 year old girl, daughter of Liberian immigrants, was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted by 4 boys ages 13 and under. The father, after the incident, essentially disowned the girl as she had brought dishonor to the family. This created some stir in the Phoenix area and the last I read a Phoenix area politician (I forget her office) returned from a fact finding trip to Africa on this very subject and was pursuing fostering or adopting the girl (who was with Child Protective Services). What I didn’t read or see anything of was a response from the Church in the Phoenix area. Where was the Church in this incident. Where is the stand against this incident, in this country, against such incidents that are increasing within our borders. Are we so intimidated by the Fascism of “tolerance” and “political correctness”, as Vishal Mangalwadi puts it in Truth and Transformation, that we are unwilling to take a stand. I applaud such a movie as this taking this stand, with courage to face the probable “persecution” for standing for truth and justice. It is time the Church also reclaimed the power of the Spirit to stand for truth and Justice in a like manner. Vishal’s book provides the language and perspective to step back into this place in society on this and other issues.

  2. I have read the writings of Vishal Manglwadi and read Darrow’s book ‘Nurturing The nations” I so vouch for the views expressed and shared in such simple truth yet very painful to eccept the truth. We as a Church, can’t be sitting and just watching, Just listening and not doing anything. I work with the orphans, abandoned and destitute women here in India. I can’t keep quiet about what I encounter every day. If Christ has called me He wants me speak up for those who can not speak, specially little one’s who have no voice and aren’t heard. Dear friends, are we filled with the compassion of Christ .Just as Jesus was moved with compassion and healed the sick. Aren’t we called the followers of Christ ? Should we not do , what Jesus Did!!! I’m I ready to go beyond the boundaries of My culture and traditions to save the lost ??

  3. Hi Anu! Thank you so much for your comment and your encouragement. The work you are doing in India sounds absolutely amazing – and you are a true inspiration and light in a dark place to be able to come from your background and experiences to understand the Bible’s calling for something much better for you and your nation. Please stay in touch! Blessings!

    Tim @ http://www.disciplenations.org

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