Inter-American Division Adventists Advocate for an End to Violence

Church leaders and members rally on behalf of healthy congregations and communities.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
Inter-American Division Adventists Advocate for an End to Violence
Seventh-day Adventists from the eastern part of Venezuela march in tune to this year’s Enditnow campaign themed “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.” [Photo: East Venezuela Union]

Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists advocated from church pulpits, city streets, and communities for an end to violence during the “enditnow” campaign held August 26-27 across the Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Adventist Church. The enditnow campaign is an annual global initiative that seeks to mobilize Seventh-day Adventists and other community groups to advocate for non-violence around the world.

Marchers displayed banners and posters that spoke out against the prevalent violence that occurs in homes, schools, churches, and many public places, particularly against women and children. The march took place in venues across Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, and Venezuela.

“Sometimes we think that an abuser could be a stranger that jumps out of a window or approaches a person from a dark alley, but usually it’s not like that,” Edith Ruiz, IAD women’s ministry director, said. “Abuse occurs when a person uses the power of his or her influence to take advantage of a vulnerable person.” The impact of abuse is always great, she said, but the impact is multiplied when perpetrated by a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus.

During this year’s focus, women’s ministries leaders preached sermons and employed resources centered around the theme, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: When Those Who Claim to Be Followers of Jesus Harm Others.”

With violence taking place in homes and everywhere, it’s important to know that the way we respond to the abuser as the abused marks a big difference in the level of healing that each can experience, Ruiz said. “We must listen with our hearts and be on the lookout for possible victims of abuse. Jesus, our good shepherd, can heal physical and emotional needs, provide spiritual nourishment, and bring peace, but we must do our part in churches and schools and everywhere,” she said.

In Venezuela

In Venezuela, church members took to the streets to let onlookers know that violence against women and children must end. “No to abuse. No to child abuse. No to abuse against women. Yes to Christ. Yes to life,” were some of the shouts heard through the streets. Churches opened their doors to the communities to speak out against violence in any form and encouraged listeners to be active in speaking up against violence in every corner of the country.

“We want to mobilize our church members and other groups so they can join us to solve this problem that day by day is affecting every corner of Venezuela and the world,” Bengajin Suniaga, president of the East Venezuela Conference, said as he marched with hundreds across Maturin in eastern Venezuela. After the march, participants met at Romulo Gallegos Plaza to listen to musical items and a special message against violence by Luisa Otahola, religious affairs leader in Maturin. Otahola shared the various ways victims of violence may be able to obtain help and legal advice.

The initiative was covered in print and radio media across Venezuela.

In Panama and Mexico

Panama saw hundreds of church members young and old marching with large banners encouraging people not to let violence claim another person. Young people marched together representing their Adventist school to promote awareness against violence in schools, parks, and children’s centers.

“Put an end to it” was the main focus at churches across the Southeast Mexican Union region. “Our churches held seminars, testimonies, and talks on how to respond to abuse and how to be vigilant against abuse and continue promoting awareness so that our churches can be a safe place for all,” Silvia Arjona, women’s ministries director for the Southeast Mexican Union, said. Hundreds marched through the streets on Sabbath afternoon to promote more enditnow awareness.

In Chiapas, Mexico, thousands of women led enditnow programs in congregations and marched throughout specific parts of the state to distribute literature, visit prisons, and hold violence awareness programs in plazas and public spaces. Victims of abuse received spiritual and psychological attention during a special program in Palenque, in northern Chiapas, in coordination with the local Office of Family Development.

Church members distributed food and clothes to low-income women with small children across communities and community plazas.

In Colombia and Haiti

In Colombia, hundreds of local congregations held enditnow programs to remind church members to be on the lookout for particular behaviors of children affected by violence, signs that women may show, as well as families and violence awareness against the elderly.

In addition, several communities were visited in which children were provided talks and interactive activities to be able to identify any form of abuse and how to speak up about it.

Faced with ongoing violence in Haiti, churches took a stand against violence during Saturday (Sabbath) morning and afternoon programs.

Psychologist Laurcelie Alcimé addressed church members at Adventist University of Haiti in Carrefour, Port-au-Prince. “As soon as you identify any type of violence, whether financial, sexual or psychological, know that you’re in the presence of abuse, and you must take action, seek help, and rely on your faith,” Alcimé said. “If a spouse deprives you of your funds to dominate you or tries to deceive you to appropriate, that could constitute a form of abuse.” Church members distributed literature on ending violence throughout their neighborhoods on Sunday.

In the Atlantic Caribbean

Across the Atlantic Caribbean Union, which comprises The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos, hundreds of church members took part in marches, motorcades, and rallies on ending violence or abuse of any kind.

On the island of New Providence, in Nassau, The Bahamas, the South Bahamas Conference organized a motorcade that ended on Arawak Cay, where a special enditnow rally took place. Church and civic leaders spoke on ending violence against women and children across The Bahamas. Anne Marie Davis, spouse of the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, delivered the keynote speech at the rally and prayed with church members during the initiative.

Elsewhere in Central America and the Caribbean and other countries across the IAD, churches featured panel discussions, videos, skits, community outreach, and special programs on eradicating violence in their communities and ensuring that more awareness is promoted across Adventist churches and schools.

Steven’s Rosado, Yannina García, Jean Carmy Felixon, Victor Martínez, and John García contributed to this report. The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News