Jul. 22, 2019

Johannesburg workshop explores theological side of reproductive rights

Photo: ACT Ubumbano

22 July 2019

In Southern Africa, faith communities are uniquely equipped with theological resources that allow them to effectively advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights.

As faith leaders and theologians from diverse faith communities gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa from 15-17 July, they reflected on the theological resources that can galvanise the faith community to provide leadership.

The workshop was organised by ACT Ubumbano in collaboration with Faith to Action Network.

The group included representatives from African traditional religion, the Baha’i faith, various Christian denominations and councils of churches, and Islam. “The faith community is well positioned to utilise its values, traditions and sacred texts to inspire effective responses to sexual and reproductive health and rights issues in the region,” said Lindarabe Mazinyane from Malawi.

Focusing particularly on teenage pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence, workshop participants reflected on the importance of faith leaders drawing on the sacred texts, policies and progressive practices to make a positive difference. Resource persons outlined the extent of teenage pregnancy, the high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence and increasing HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women. According to Lawrence Tsuro from the Muslim community in Zimbabwe, “As communities of faith, our sacred texts are powerful resources that we should utilise more effectively to respond to these pressing challenges.”

Participants engaged in theological reflections on how to spur the faith community in the region to provide consistent and effective leadership in their different contexts. They expressed commitment towards closer collaboration and sharing of resources. Further, they asserted that the community is a key stakeholder in terms of policies in the region. “We possess many assets that we should utilise to address sexual and reproductive health and rights in general, as well as teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence,” said Bishop Absolom Mnisi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.

The workshop lays the foundation for the development of policy briefs from an interfaith theological perspective, reflected Matthias Brucker of the Faith to Action Network. These policy briefs will contribute towards greater clarification of the theological factors that inform the faith-based engagement with sexual and reproductive health and rights issues in the region and beyond. “Through the ‘see, judge and act' methodology, people of faith can contribute towards the transformation that we all seek,” proposed Ashley Green-Thompson, ACT Ubumbano.