Church takes stand against family violence

By Jose Reader

The Presbyterian Church has added its voice to a national campaign calling for action on family violence.

The “Family Violence – It’s not OK” campaign was launched in early September and is designed to change the way New Zealanders think and act about family violence, according to Families Commission chief commissioner Rajen Prasad.

“It draws on the growing community feeling against family violence,” he says of the campaign that is led by the Families Commission and Ministry of Social Development.

The Rev Lapana Faletolu of St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Church in Christchurch features in the television adverts that are part of the campaign, which will see around $14m spent on anti-family violence initiatives over the next four years.

Lapana believes the campaign is long overdue, and says it’s good for Presbyterians to have a voice on this important matter.

“It’s good that we are counted.”

In the commercials, Lapana appeals to Kiwis to take responsibility for stopping the violence: “don’t look the other way and say it’s not our problem”. He also asks that people don’t use their culture as an excuse for doing things that they know are wrong.

In addition to Lapana’s involvement, the Right Rev Pamela Tankersley has thrown the Church’s weight behind the campaign with a public statement endorsing it.

“We believe that nurturing and supporting families is the best way to improve the health of our society,” she says.

“Every time we hear the latest report of another child killed by a relative we all sigh and say ‘enough is enough’, but simply sighing and moving on it isn’t good enough - we actually need to do something about it.”

Condemning the country’s deplorable record of violence against women and children, which sees police respond to a family violence incident every seven and a half minutes, Pamela says that it’s important for individuals and organisations like the Presbyterian Church to put some action behind their good intentions.

“It’s time to stop the rhetoric. Let’s start by asking ourselves the hard questions: Who’s created the society where people learn behaviour that’s destructive to relationships and families? We need to look at ourselves. What positive things are we as individuals doing to help young people and families?”

In addition to Presbyterian Support’s work with families around New Zealand, she says congregations also provide family support services like early childhood education, after-school programmes and fellowship gatherings for children and families. But the Church – like the rest of the community – can do more, Pamela believes.

She confirmed that the Presbyterian Church was involved in meeting of Christian leaders in early September to discuss the role that churches can play in developing practical solutions to family dysfunction and child abuse.

The Church is also planning a comprehensive resource that will encourage congregations to refl ect on the issues associated with family violence, Pamela says.

“The resource is part of a social justice series, and is part of how we are encouraging parishes to be Christ-centred and community facing. Th e resource asks congregations to take action in their own communities, as well as calling individuals to take personal responsibility for making a difference,” she says.

This resource, which is expected to be available in March 2008, will be the third in a series of resources aimed at encouraging refl ection and advocacy on issues of importance in our communities. Th e fi rst of these, on issues associated with aging, was distributed in October 2007.

The hard and sad facts

  • half of all murders in NZ are domestic-violence related
  • 35 per cent of NZ men report being physically violent to their partner
  • Police deal with more than 70,000 family violence calls each year 
  • on average 14 women, six men and 10 children are killed by family members each year 
  • NZ rates 3rd highest for child homicide out of 27 OECD countries 
  • Family violence is estimated to cost NZ society billions of dollars every year in economic costs to families, the health and justice systems and workplaces.

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