Pastor condemns family violence

By Teuila Fuatai

Biblical principles do not justify violence towards children and women, a local pastor says.

"We follow what God's word teaches us and following that, family violence is out," Rotorua Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Paul Jonker said.

The Children's Commissioner says some parents have used scripture to justify family violence.

But Pastor Jonker said having the best interests of your children and spouse at heart was part of following biblical principles and domestic violence did not tie in with that.

Nearly 30 of New Zealand's religious organisations have now joined the fight against domestic abuse.

Brought together by Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills, a 41-strong signatory group this week launched a joint initiative declaring that family violence had no place in their religions.

The signatories promised to hold perpetrators of violence accountable, encourage reporting of family violence by their members, provide support for victims and train staff in responding to situations of domestic abuse.

Pastor Jonker said any cases of abuse were taken seriously in his congregation. "In our church we have a child-safe policy," he said.

"We have posters that are signed and we put them up so when people come to our church they know immediately it's a safe place for their children.

"If there is a report from a child that his father or mother is abusing him or each other, I will go see the people as a pastor and from a pastor's point of view I will chat with them. If I can't do something about that [then] it needs to be reported and taken to the next level."

As well as ensuring people in domestic violence situations were safe, it was also important to deal with problems which had led to the violence, Pastor Jonker said.

"I will still do some counselling [with victims and perpetrators] afterwards."

Dr Wills, a paediatrician, said he had treated children from families where faith or belief was used to justify violent behaviour.

"No faith condones violence towards women and children," Dr Wills said. "There are some people who use their faith as an excuse.

"So if you want to address this, you need to do that through a faith-based mechanism."

Dr Wills was approached this year by three religious leaders - Dr Zain Ali, Fiji-born head of Auckland University's Islamic Studies Research Unit; Auckland University chaplain Uesifili UNasa, of Methodist faith; and Maori Anglican minister Robert McKay.

They wanted to discuss how faith communities could address family violence. "As a result we worked with faiths throughout the country on a national statement against violence."

Police figures show about 89,000 domestic violence incidents were reported in the past financial year - nearly half of which resulted in criminal charges.

In Rotorua, more than 2300 incidents were reported - more than 40 each week.

Notifications of concern to Child, Youth and Family have also doubled in the past six years to more than 150,000.

Rotorua notifications rose from about 1800 to nearly 4700 in that time.

"I applaud all the faith leaders who have contributed and signed up to this national statement," Dr Wills said. "We all need to be part of making this country free from violence."

Religious promises

  • Stand up for our children, women and families.

  • Refuse to tolerate violence or turn a blind eye to it.

  • Provide places of safety and nurture for children and families.

  • Encourage people to report family violence and hold perpetrators accountable.

  • Train staff to respond safely to family violence.

  • Partner with community organisations to combat domestic violence and provide support to victims.

Source: Faith Communities Against Family Violence National Statement


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