Approximately fifty people were expected but many more people attended the celebration against violence against women on November 17, an initiative of Ivonne van der Kar (Sisterworks) in collaboration with the Conference of Dutch Religious, Mgr. Schraven Foundation, the Vincent de Paul Center, Bureau Mamre and the Network of Catholic Women.
Theologian Martina Heinrichs was the first speaker of the afternoon, in the chapel of the San Damiano City Convent of the Franciscans in ‘s-Hertogenbosch She talked about her visit to Thailand where she attended a meeting of the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC), an ecumenical movement of prayer for justice peace and reconciliation. The FLC supports projects for women and children in particular. She saw how touristic items were sold at a market in Bangkok, while young girls in bikini and high heels danced on the tables in the cafes and bars next to them. Youngsters, between 12 and 15 years old, recruited and bought in the north of the country, and boys who receive female hormones to develop breasts. But she also spoke about initiatives that combat trafficking in women.
After a coffee break, the Afternoon Prayer began with testimonies. Sister Medylyn from the Philippines spoke about sister Eustochia in Indonesia, who shelters women and children who have fled situations of violent exploitation. It is vulnerable work, but at the same time authorities get very nervous when Sister Eustochia is involved in a case.
Vincent Hermans and Piet Bots had each written a letter addressed to two Religious who were murdered in China in 1937 and 1938. Franciscan Father Jan van Heel just as well as Bishop Frans Schraven and his companions tried to protect the women who had sought refuge at their mission, against the Japanese army that claimed women for their soldiers. All of them had to pay for this with their lives: revenge for the Japanese loss of face.
The last story was from Maria Meinorah. In the Jeannette Noël house in Amsterdam, undocumented refugees are taken care of, including women and girls and their children. Maria is sometimes moved by the care that the women have for the children conceived by rape. She is shocked by the inevitability of sexual violence that migrant women face on their way ….
Franck Ploum led the Afternoon Prayer celebration and read the story of Susanna and the elders in Daniel 13. He noticed that – even though Susanna was acquitted – in the process only the voice of men counted. He illustrated that with a fable from South Africa that was both bitter and funny at the same time: the court-case between the duck and the fox. The fox says he has the right to eat the duck. The duck obviously does not agree and thinks that she is in her right. When they are in court, the duck sees that all judges are foxes.
Moving was the final statement, where churchgoers touched each other’s shoulders and together expressed:
“I want to build a world in which women are no longer oppressed, in which women and girls have every chance of life and development.
I want to keep my eyes and ears open so that I can hear what women might not dare say.
I want to express so much confidence that anyone who is hurt and traumatized can come to me.
I want to contribute to a world in which justice is a large stream to which all people, all peoples, all people subordinate their own interests.
I want to be the echo of what women want to tell: their vision, their dreams, their strength, their hopes and what they have to offer, their desires, their fears and grief, their resignation, their anger and their tenacity.
I ask for blessing that I can accomplish this.”
We left the church while singing together the Magnificat of Taizé.
Joanna Seldenrath, from newsletter Dutch Network Catholic Women