Guest Blog: Easter Reflection - “Violence Against Women and Girls: An Easter Lesson from A Stone”
A group of terrified women watch as their friend and relative is humiliated, violently beaten, and killed while the authorities refuse to help. If the women speak up or even cry aloud, then they could suffer the same fate as their loved one.
A group of terrified women watch as their friend and relative is humiliated, violently beaten, and killed while the authorities refuse to help. If the women speak up or even cry aloud, then they could suffer the same fate as their loved one. Some bystanders see the situation but do nothing, pretend not to know the victim, and pretend that the situation is not as dangerous as it appears. Other bystanders, spit on the victim, tease the victim and even encourage the violence. But these brave women redefine the word bystander in that they stand by the victim. In standing by their friend, they provide their friend with a comforting presence in the midst of a violent death. The women stay to witness the final few words of their friend and watch to see where the lifeless body is taken. They watch as the body is placed inside of a private area with a gate made of stone and sealed shut.
The women wake up early in the morning to care for the violated body of their dear friend and to provide a proper burial. As they go to the place where the body is kept, they have one major problem: “Who will roll the stone away?” The stone permits the community to go on with life “as usual” as though the violence never happened. The stone prevents people from mourning and offering appropriate care for a loved one. The stone blocks the image of the bruised body from the minds of busy bodies. The stone hides the horror of the humiliation. The stone allows power, profit, and fear to decide who will or will not be held accountable for their acts of violence. The stone stops people from seeing the suffering while allowing people to create their versions of the violence—versions which attack the victim’s character and declare that the victim somehow wanted or “deserved” the violence. These brave women know that the stone will determine what happens next. Through their tears and their fear, they have the courage to go to the stone.
There is a stone that conveniently hides the stench of violence against women and girls and the various forms that it takes. The stone is often placed there and sealed shut by well-intentioned individuals who are offering their help. It is also placed there by power-hungry people, profit-driven programs, misguided media, and those who are more concerned with covering up the truth than with saving lives. The stone is reminiscent of the door that is slammed shut and bolted to try to silence Tamar after she is raped (2 Samuel 13:1-22). A stone that heavy cannot be rolled away by one person or organization. It takes the courage of people who are willing to wake up when others are still sleeping and living life “as usual.” It takes the miracle of cooperation and earth-shaking, love-filled, truth telling in order to roll the stone away and seek justice. When we roll the stone away, some of us will be so mortified by what we see that we will take action. Others of us will immediately run and share the news so that everyone will know what we have seen and experienced. Still others of us will not believe what is happening and will feel safe in silence. Nevertheless, the stone must be rolled away.
Even as we face what seems to be the impossible task of rolling away the stone, we must stand by the victims and survivors, just as the group of women stand by their friend and relative named Jesus when he is beaten and killed. They stand by him when his body is taken away and the evidence is hidden from the community. They stand by him when they ask, “Who will roll the stone away?” The only way to go to the stone and roll it away is to stand by the victims and survivors of violence. The stone must be rolled away in order to expose the world to the truth. When the women go to the tomb of Jesus, it is simply another morning—another sad morning. But that morning becomes Easter morning when the stone is rolled away.
Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi, MDiv, ThM
Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi is a preacher, scholar, and activist. She is from Kenya, and her commitment to social justice is deeply influenced by the faithful and informed activism of her family. Siwo-Okundi has earned degrees in Black Studies, African Studies, divinity, and theology. Her scholarship and sermons have been published in several academic journals and books including the 3-volume Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011, 2012, and 2013). Siwo-Okundi has preached in numerous settings, served as a pastor, and is completing the PhD program in Practical Theology and Homiletics. [Photo Credit: Phoebe Sexton]