Mukono, Uganda

Christians have a role to play in ensuring women and children are protected from abuse such as rape and sexual abuse, according to Wamaitha Kimani, director of the International Justice Mission in Uganda.

Delivering a sermon at Uganda Christian University’s ThornyCroft Chapel on Sunday, Kimani urged congregants not to be bystanders as violence against women and children occurs in their communities.

“When you’re in a crowd, it diffuses responsibility,” she said. “It also diffuses blame. Sometimes you look around and maybe think I understand the situation differently or maybe the person is not in trouble. So you step back and do nothing. With the bystander effect, the more people witness an emergence, the less they will act.”

Wamaitha Kimani (centre), Country Director of the International Justice Mission in Uganda, talks to Uganda Christian University Vice-Chancellor Professor Aaron Mushengyezi (left) and his predecessor, Canon Dr John Senyonyi. PHOTO: Courtesy of IJM

But Kimani added that there is a way to change that narrative.

“It’s when one person does something, and then anybody else tries to do something. The crowd won’t do anything, but one person does something. Justice isn’t served in crowds. It is rendered by an individual.”

She cited an August 15 judgment from the High Court in Kabale, western Uganda, in which a 68-year-old grandfather from Kisoro district was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing his wife. his granddaughter.

“Amid intimidation from family members to have the case swept under the rug, the victim’s father stood firm and demanded justice for his daughter,” she said. “The victim’s father was the attacker’s son. In what has proven to be a ripple effect, Ugandan police last week announced a related case in the same region, in which a prominent politician faces defilement charges.

Quoting Micah 6:1–8 and James 1:22–27, Kimani pointed out that “the Word of God tells us that we apply his word, not just hearers.”

“When you think of the crime statistics that we have, that tells you that violence and injustice against women and children in communities exists very close to us. So you would wonder how come no one don’t do anything about it.”

“I know sometimes we think why are we bothering? We cannot succeed. Everywhere you look you see injustice. And you wonder if you act on one, what about the next? And who am I to solve them? Other people may see these issues. Am I the guardian of the world? But the heart of God is justice… We are not spectators. We have been called to act…to seek justice. »

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Uganda’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey shows that 51% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence and more than one in five women (22%) have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime . The survey also showed that almost 10% of girls aged 15-19 and almost 20% of women aged 20-24 said they had been sexually assaulted, with more than half of these women having it. suffered in the year preceding the survey.

In an effort to raise awareness of the issue, the Christian organization IJM organizes a campaign once a year, dubbed Freedom Sunday, in which it urges churches to raise their voices and stand up against all forms of abuse. This year’s Freedom Sunday celebration in the UCU Chapel coincided with the 60th anniversary of Uganda’s independence.

The correspondent, John Semakula, is a freelance journalist and senior lecturer at Uganda Christian University.

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