Recognises that gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities. It seeks to end all gender-based discrimination.
An estimated 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime and as recent campaigns like #MeToo have highlighted, this isn’t just a developing world issue. Jesus stood up to gender prejudice through out his life on earth and calls us to do the same.
#whatireallyreallywant… from The Global Goals
+ THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
This well known verse, written to churches in the middle of the first century AD, in what is currently southern Turkey. It is an astonishing statement of basic equality, even in the 21st century. In its own context, in the midst of a slave owning, patriarchal and brutal Roman Empire, it was revolutionary. Add to this the unequivocal, eternal nature of what it states, absolute unqualified unity and equality in Christ, it is not difficult to see how it might carry more weight, in a discussion on fundamental equity, than other parts of the Bible, which offer perhaps a more pragmatic view about church order or similar.
It matters to Christians too. Christianity, from the creation of heaven and earth, through the incarnation, to the renewal of all things is a very material faith – stuff matters. Various attempts down the years have attempted to over-spiritualise life and faith, sometimes out of sympathy for the poor, but they ultimately fail. Poverty – hard, real, grinding poverty matters to God.
When the Bible talks about the poor, as it often does, it almost always means the materially poor. Occasional talk of the ‘poor in spirit’ should never blind us to that or cause us to re-interpret the whole. A whole host of verses from all over the Bible make this point. Suffice it to say, take the call to fight the injustice of material poverty out of the Bible and we are left with a text full of holes.
But one verse remains. A stark, seemingly irritatingly clear verse, made all the more so as it comes from the lips of Jesus himself and is repeated in three of the four gospels. A well-known and dangerous verse because it has the capacity to self-justify our ambivalence, to provide a God ordained reason for our negativity, our lack of action, and our disobedience. If ‘the poor will always be with us’ then Goal 1 is a non-starter. We can do our bit, but our ambition is invariably limited, our hopes diminished, our enthusiasm quashed, all on the say so of Jesus. But what if we have got it wrong, and this record of a conversation between Jesus and Judas is not the bold statement of absolute, inevitable, eternal truth that we so easily, and conveniently, take it for? What if Judas is being reminded that to engage in a specific act of worship need not get in the way of the ongoing requirement to serve the poor, who will always present a pressing claim to his attention? We are not Judas. We live in the first generation in history that has the capacity to eliminate extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2015 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, that is half of the total.
As Christians approach this goal, justification is hardly required. More encouragement is needed that it can be achieved and it is God’s heartfelt desire that poverty should be ended, now!Understanding that task, of how to read our Bibles, is vital here because, as we’ve alluded to, there is more than one message which could be read, and it matters. Very often Christianity has been painted, sometimes by its own adherents, as an enemy of equality, and has proved to be an obstacle, rather than a gateway, to those members of society, not least women, who have been disempowered.
However, it is indisputably true that Christians should be champions of equality at the most fundamental of levels. Christian faith affirms that we are all made in the ‘image of God’, that we have all ‘fallen short of the glory of God’, and that we are all subject to the forgiving, loving grace of God. Nothing that we are, by virtue of our race, creed, gender, wealth, background or anything else, can affect any of that, either way, one jot. In the light of such basic truth, the historic relative disregard of 50% of the population is a justice issue that cannot be denied. Especially so given the obvious and deliberate prominence of the role of women in the Bible, again even more remarkable given the cultural expectation of the times. Debates rage over the appropriateness, or not, of different gender roles, but the question of equality has surely been settled.
Goal 5 is about the equality of women and girls, after generations where this has often been absent. That includes access to education, legal rights and protection, as well as levels of representation and engagement. It involves the specific challenge of issues that disproportionately affect women, like domestic violence, the consequence of unpaid work, the realities of acting as carers. It engages with deep rooted cultural issues like that of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Given all the history, and yet our calling, all these are issues in which the Church particularly can and must take a lead.
+ DISCUSSION POINTS
- Which examples come to mind when you think of gender injustice?
- Imagine yourself as an outsider in your culture. How would you describe the gender roles you see?
- Think of some prominent Biblical women. How was their contribution distinctive and necessary?
- In what ways has the Church harmed rather than helped the issues of gender inequality?
+ GOAL 5 IN ACTION
Most of us will have probably met someone who has been a victim of gender-based violence. We just may not know it.
Trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence are just a few of the huge issues women face in all corners of the world.
At the heart of this goal is a sincere desire to assert equal dignity and moral worth for all women and men created in the image of God. This well established Biblical principle reaches into all cultures and cries out for equity (equal outcomes) more than equality (equal access).
BMS World Mission seeks to address particular injustices, experienced in the majority, by women and girls, recognising that gender dynamics affect every area of life. It seeks to tackle the root causes of gender injustice globally – such as sexual trafficking, school-based sexual violence, and patriarchal systems that prevent women from maternal healthcare. Gender justice considerations are sought across every aspect of its work, both in the UK and overseas.
+ WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Personal – Treat people with dignity, reflecting on the way they are made in the image of God.
Local – Prompt a discussion in a local group about ways that men and women can be involved. Order DIGNITY, a BMS resource to help small groups tackle this often difficult subject.
International – Support BMS in their efforts to tackle gender based discrimination.