16 Days of Activism

Celebrating Human Rights Day

Today’s post marks the final day of the 16 Days of Activism, which span from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to Human Rights Day, focusing throughout on ways to eliminate gender-based violence. Two years ago (2019, ‘Day 16 – Why Do We Do It?’) our Human Rights Day post offered some reflection; this one does, too.

I often think about a woman I met years ago. She had grown up in appalling and chaotic circumstances, her early life marred by violence and abuse. By then, she was living a life that was peaceful and made her content. She told me that what turned things for her was an incident shortly after one of her family members shouted aggressively at her in the street—something to her unremarkable, which she had barely even registered. But then a stranger looked her in the eye and said, ‘I want you to know that this is not okay.’ She says it startled her, and that after this, she would say ‘this is not okay’, like a mantra, whenever things at home got difficult. From then, she determined, things would be different. 

That’s stayed with me.

The ‘Orange the World’ logo, UN 16 Days campaign.

Looking back over Shiloh Project posts from 2021, it has been a full-on year, and our posts cover many themes: from using artwork to talk, or teach about gender-based violence, to multiple reflections on purity culture; from new books and icons featuring women, to rape culture in Bangladesh and rape of men in rabbinical literature; from introducing activist Erin Sessions, and ‘Misogynoir to Mishpat’, a new venture amplifying Black women theologians and religionists, to introducing the Avisa Project on the history of sexual harassment. We’ve had a pushback series on abusiveness against academics, as well as posts on Proverbs 31, white rage in Buddhist studies, on marriage, online teaching about sexual violence, and on Naomi Alderman’s novel Disobedience. We can’t be accused of being predictable!

Over the past 16 Days, we’ve also found things to celebrate: achievements, awards, and appointments; publications, podcasts, and progress.

But 2021 has been another tough year. Climate change, war, migration, corruption, Covid-19…—all have contributed to preventable loss of life, poverty, growing inequalities, as well as to gender-based violence. Even amid our celebrations of inspirational activism over these past days, there has been mention of aid cuts, cuts in higher education, and rising cases of domestic violence and abuse. On a much bigger scale, the same kinds of co-realities appear in the UN Women’s Annual Report. And now, with horror stories from lockdowns, and of the fate of those left behind, as well as those escaped from Afghanistan, and of persons trafficked into indentured labour and sex slavery, emerging, any glimpses of good news can feel like straws plucked, desperately, from a giant bale of miseries. 

There are things we and our supporters do—donating, fundraising, consciousness raising, staying informed, incorporating information about GBV and its prevention into our teaching, research, funding applications and publications, forming collaborations, looking out for those we encounter and offering support or making referrals…—but it can feel like very little.

Still, it remains important to mark the 16 Days. It remains important to keep activating, and each and together to do what we can, or what is manageable. It’s a way to feel less defeated by the massive things that need sustained action and it’s a way to remember that little actions achieve steps along the way. I’m not a person of faith but I have faith in that.

See you next year for the 16 Days?

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Calling Out – and then some!

Today we celebrate calling out – but that needs a bit of qualification and explanation.

‘Calling out’ refers to a direct challenge to what someone has said or done. Usually, ‘calling out’ is performed publicly, including (indeed very often) on social media. The intention of calling out is to confront and to expose someone, or something.

Calling out can be, or can get, nasty; it can escalate; and sometimes it can expose the caller outer as hypocritical, or attention-seeking, or band-wagoning. 

But calling out can also be a registration of protest, an on-the-spot expression that something is wrong and needs to change. It can be a first and decisive and vocal step in a process of tackling wrongs. 

Let’s face it, we have had some big wake-up calls, including in academia, showing up that very many things have been rotten for too long. Sexual harassment and abuse on campuses, to give just one example, have been rampant, and often ignored, or tacitly, or resignedly, accepted. Processes for addressing sexual harassment and abuse, meanwhile, are often ineffectual. (For some careful investigative work on this topic by Al Jazeera, see ‘Degrees of Abuse’, here). Other kinds of bullying, systemic inequality, discrimination, and abuse are also entrenched.

This year, the Shiloh Project hosted the pushback series to give a platform to speaking up about some of the things that are wrong in academia. We heard from an anonymous feminist scholar who eventually left, defeated, the conservative theological college where she had worked for multiple years. We heard also from Pauline scholar Grace Emmett, Buddhism scholars Amy Langenberg and Ann Gleig, theologian Karen O’Donnell, Hebrew Bible scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou, and our own co-director Chris Greenough. Each spoke—if sometimes with caution and trepidation, mindful of how risky it can be to speak up or call out—of how they have been undermined and thwarted, intimidated, and maligned, in response to their research, often by other academics. 

We also published a response to the ‘I’m back!’ statement of Jan Joosten, which he wrote shortly after completing his sentence. Joosten’s statement elicited many indignant Twitter comments from biblical scholars and, not long after, a panel discussion with the title ‘The Ethics of Citation: Sexual Abusers in Biblical Studies’. This panel comprised Stephen Young, Emily Schmidt, and Mark Leuchter, and was chaired by Meredith Warren (see here). The discussion covers a range of people, offences, and situations, and is largely exploratory. It asks, ‘is it ethical to cite sexual abusers?’

It is, I agree, important to think about this question. But it is not in every case straightforward to answer with either an unqualified ‘yes’ or an unqualified ‘no’. Where Joosten is concerned, I, for one, will not be citing him any time soon. I have cited Joosten in the past, prior to his conviction (see my earlier post, here). I will not cite his scholarship now, for two reasons. The first reason is that since Joosten was found guilty by a court of law for dreadful crimes on a large scale and this became public, I see him first and foremost as a sex offender. For me, this now overshadows any admiration, or respect I may have had for his scholarship in the past. When I see his name now, the first thing I think of is not his erudition, but that 28,000 items of violent child pornography were found in his possession. The second reason is that I see no signs of any attempts at reparation or restorative justice in Joosten’s statement.

There are still questions I grapple with and that the panel discussion—which rightly shifts focus to victims and survivors and calls out and condemns sexual abusers—doesn’t probe fully. How responsible are we as readers for background checking authors we cite? Is hearsay ever a legitimate basis, or only conviction? Does not citing apply only to authors convicted of sexual abuses, and if so, why? Why not authors guilty of other abuses, too, like environmental destruction, drug dealing, armed robbery, business malpractices… because these crimes also have grave consequences. Do we declare all our own privileges and detriments? Do we not cite the work of scholars if they are known to hold views we object to (e.g. on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, on abortion or Zionism), even if they or we are writing on entirely other topics? I find myself still contending with some of these questions. And I will continue to contend with them, because they matter to me. 

I also grapple with how the discussion about those convicted of sexual abuse can move forward, because the idea that anyone and everyone ever convicted of a grave offence is evermore excluded, also does not sit easy with me. What if they contribute to reparative programmes determined by survivors, for instance? Or what if they participate in restorative justice initiatives, where survivors receive a direct apology? In other words, calling out and openly identifying a misdeed or a crime is important—but it is not and should not be the end to it.

Back in 2019, Barack Obama spoke about ‘call-out culture’ and how calling someone out for something they did or didn’t do, and then sitting back, is not activism. As he went on to say, ‘the world is messy’ and ‘there are ambiguities’. There’s more to do and it’s not straightforward.  

Calling out matters. Being called out can make us more aware. But, ideally, calling out opens up, rather than concludes, engagement. It’s only in the opening up that activism can flourish.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Saima Afzal!

Saima Afzal is founder and director of SAS RIGHTS, a Community Interest Company that is all about dynamic and creative ways of problem solving and generating community-led activism. 

Saima has often collaborated with the Shiloh Project. You can read an interview about her organisation SAS RIGHTS, and she was one of our 2018 activists and participant in our lockdown series. Saima also  ran numerous campaigns last year aimed at challenging Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), some of which were profiled on our blog (see here and here.)

This year, too, Saima has worked tirelessly at reaching the most isolated and marginalised members in her community of Blackburn with Darwen, facilitating support, information, and networking. This has included a fabulous vaccination drive (in two languages). Given the constrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Saima’s personal hardship with aggressive treatment for cancer, these activities were particularly challenging. All the while, to keep things going, Saima also had to raise funds for her various projects: this in an environment where funding streams are fewer and donations harder to raise. Quite simply: in insecure times like the present, with many struggling financially and feeling anxious, it’s tough to fundraise.  

But… Saima is resourceful. And she has also gathered around herself a loyal and committed team of specialists and volunteers. Somehow, she has managed to do a great deal, partly with the help of grants from the National Lottery Fund, which help cover expenses.. 

Saima and her work in action – see @saimaafzalmbe

The VAWG work Saima leads has the title, ‘Truth, Art, Action and Activism’. This has a number of separate ‘branches’: such as, the ‘From Isolation to Cohesion’ project, offering talking therapy, including by Zoom, during times of social distancing and restrictions; the ‘Take A Break Project’, providing fun online exercise and wellbeing sessions; and the ‘Opening Minds – Love Difference Project’, opening up important conversations on topics that can be difficult to talk about (such as sexual orientation or domestic violence). Quite often, participants from one project find themselves opting in to another – with chats after the exercise class, for instance, leading on to involvement in group discussions, and from there to talking therapy or referrals. 

Saima has decades of experience of working in safeguarding, specialist advising, and human rights advocacy. Most of her work has been in supporting women who experience or live within controlling relationships, or in community structures and cultures that make accessing support difficult. Alongside facilitating help and support to minoritized women, another kind of work Saima does so brilliantly is building bridges of communication and understanding between disparate groups: such as between people of different religions, backgrounds, professions, or ethnicities.

Thank you, Saima, for the invaluable work you are doing and for the goodness and optimism you model and exude. 

If anyone can donate to Saima’s work, please visit here

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Resisting Domestic Violence and Abuse: A White Rose Collaboration

Today we celebrate the UK’s Domestic Abuse Act, which received Royal Assent in late April 2021–though we have some reservation (see below). This Act is likely to protect millions of victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) who are disproportionately female. Alongside this, we celebrate the significant contribution that nuanced understandings of spiritual abuse, and of religion and religious studies, can make in DVA prevention and safeguarding.

Small grants can make a big difference. We hope positive action will grow from a new collaboration funded by the White Rose Consortium. The White Rose Consortium is a group of three northern universities: the Universities of York, Sheffield, and Leeds. The consortium’s Collaboration Fund provides the means for researchers from all three universities to pool knowledge, expertise, resources, creativity, and energies, in a common cause.

From the White Rose University Consortium website (white

The Shiloh Project has had earlier success with this scheme (see here and here). Earlier this year, White Rose funding has been awarded for a project with the title ‘Domestic Violence and Marginalised Communities’. Why? Because, while prevalence of DVA is fairly consistent across various groups (including different religious denominations), marginalised minority individuals and groups experience also additional inequalities, vulnerabilities, and risk factors. 

Black women and women from ethnic minorities, for example, frequently experience multiple additional barriers to escaping DVA and finding support. These barriers can arise, for instance, from systemic inequalities, economic dependency, cultural and religious expectations, and, in some cases, language barriers. The lockdowns and social isolation measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, have exacerbated pressures, increasing stress, economic difficulties, disruption in social networks and to normal life, and, along with that, risk to those vulnerable to or experiencing DVA. (Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, has reported a huge 700%+ increase in calls, compared with pre-lockdown figures.) The impacts of DVA on those from marginalised groups, therefore, warrants particularly urgent attention in research, policy, and practice.

Unfortunately, the UK government, in passing the Domestic Violence Act, failed to adopt the amendment which would have explicitly secured protection for migrant DVA victims and survivors. Moreover, the Act failed to implement reforms to the payment of Universal Credit, thereby risking situations where perpetrators of DVA have total control over the income of an entire household. This, in turn, can enable economic abuse. (For a fuller description in a news release by Refuge, see here). These shortfalls, affecting women from migrant communities and from socio-economically deprived sectors particularly harshly, accentuate the significance of the focus aims of this White Rose Domestic Violence and Marginalised Communities project.

The project leads are Parveen Ali (Professor in Health Sciences) and Michaela Rogers (Senior Lecturer in Social Work), both of the University of Sheffield. They are supported by postgraduate intern, Moninuola Ifayomi. 

Michaela Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Social Work (University of Sheffield), Project Co-Lead

(There’s a podcast episode with Parveen here: it’s Episode 16 of the superb podcast series ‘Talking Research’, where Asmita Sood interviews academics across many disciplines who all research sexual violence. Parveen discusses gender-based violence and health inequalities, with particular focus on marginalised women.)

Parveen Ali, Professor of Nursing and Midwifery (University of Sheffield), Project Co-Lead

Given that DVA has many layers and contributory factors that intersect cultural, religious, gender and ethnic boundaries, solutions, too, need to be multifaceted. Hence, alongside Parveen and Michaela, other researchers involved in the project come from a diverse range of disciplines: Criminology and Criminal Justice, Social Policy and Social Work, Urban Studies and Planning, International Development, Management, Geography, Law, and Sociology. Emma Tomalin (one of our 2018 activists) and co-director Johanna Stiebert are contributing expertise from the area of religious studies. 

The collective working on this project will focus initially on two topics: first, the methodological complexities of addressing DVA alongside or within faith communities; and second, how to assist interpreters supporting victims of DVA. The aims of this are to highlight DVA experiences in marginalised communities, and to facilitate support through the exchange of knowledge and identification of gaps in current policy, practice, and research.

The collaboration has got off to an energetic start. We are motivated by our common purpose. DVA is a distressing social problem on a vast scale, but it has been fabulous to learn more from the other participants about other factors, reasons for and consequences of DVA, as well as to feel we are working towards something meaningful.

Great things can happen when good people work together – and that is worth celebrating. 

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16 Days of Activism… Celebrating Transformation Through the Arts and Humanities

Today’s post is bitter-sweet. Bitter, because 2021 is the first year since 2013 that the UK has not met its 0.7% of Gross National Income spending target for Official Development Assistance (ODA). Instead, the UK contribution has decreased to 0.5%, with devastating consequences for many vulnerable human beings. The impact of the cuts is profound, and far-reaching.

The cuts have also severely impacted all ODA research funding, with many grants suspended, reassessed and reduced, or withdrawn (see here). Many Humanities subjects, including the study of religion, were already vulnerable in the higher education sector, and now international research on religion and development, too, is further compromised.

More sweet, is the release today of the research report “Transforming Conflict and Displacement Through Arts and Humanities,” by Robyn Gill-Leslie (PRAXIS, Arts and Humanities for Global Development. Leeds: University of Leeds, 2021), see attached.

The report makes a very strong case for what the Arts and Humanities bring to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to human flourishing. 

Dr Neelam Raina puts it beautifully in her foreword: 

“What is especially relevant about this report are the invisible, faint lines of emotions,
reflections, shared experiences, resonances which are echoed across communities and geographies. These lines, best captured by Arts and Humanities approaches to understanding our world, need urgent recognition and exploration, as they are our connection to the possibilities of creating and living in an equitable, peaceful world.” 

Dr. Mmapula Kebaneilwe at Women’s Rights NGO Emang Basadi (Gaborone, Botswana in 2018)

After an introduction, the report illustrates this claim with several case studies and impact assessments. Two of these are projects led by academics associated with the Shiloh Project. One is the recently concluded project “Resisting Gender-Based Violence and Injustice Through Activism with Biblical Texts and Images” (see pages 74-79 of the report), which was centred in southern Africa and led by Shiloh Project co-director Johanna, together with Katie Edwards and Mmapula Kebaneilwe. The other is ongoing and led by Adriaan van Klinken (one of our activists from 2018 and a participant in last year’s lockdown series). Adriaan’s collaboration is called “Sexuality and Religion Network in East Africa” (see pages 86-91 of the report). 

Please take a look at the report and you will see how collaborative, creative, meaningful and purpose-driven both these projects are. (And the same is true of the other wonderful projects profiled in the report.)

Tom Muyunga-Mukasa, campaigns for TB, HIV and Covid prevention and care (Nairobi, 2020)

Moreover, these particular projects show that some literacy at least, and preferably nuanced understanding, of religions and religious studies is not only desirable but, we would say, essential for working in Sub-Saharan Africa. After all, as Adriaan points out, in this vast region between 50% and 70% of all health, education and development services are provided by faith-based organisations, which means “religion must be incorporated into development analyses and interventions” (p.87).

Today we are grateful for a report, which acknowledges and describes friendships made and productive collaborations forged towards sustainable development initiatives. 

We are fearful of the consequences of sharply reducing ODA, especially at a time when populations already vulnerable are battered also by the Covid pandemic and its many repercussions. Alongside keeping up pressure for the reinstatement (and, if possible, increase) of previous levels of UK ODA spending, we also hope for more recognition of the Arts and Humanities, including the study of religion. 

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… The Publication “When Did We See You Naked?”

Today we celebrate an extraordinary book, published earlier this year. The book has the title When Did We See You Naked? Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse (London: SCM, 2021), and is edited by Jayme R. Reaves (one of our 2018 activists), David Tombs (one of our activists from 2017), and Rocio Figueroa (interviewed by the Shiloh Project in 2019).

The book focuses unflinchingly on a distressing detail present in the biblical text of the New Testament gospels—namely the aggressive public stripping of Jesus during his prolonged torture. It calls this what it is: sexual abuse. 

In times past, usually stemming from antisemitic and Judeophobic ideology, the Jewishness of Jesus was more commonly played down, or even denied, than it is today (though see here). And yet, the Jewishness of Jesus is all too clear in the gospels. Jesus, after all, is circumcised, goes to Temple, cites Jewish scripture, and celebrates Pesach. It is no longer controversial to refer to Jesus as Jewish. But in times present, the sexual abuse of Jesus is rarely recognised, let alone called by its name, or discussed. Drawing attention to it is still widely perceived as provocative and sometimes even as offensive.

This book probes first, why the sexualised dimensions of Jesus’s degradation have mostly been hidden in plain sight; and second, why, when they are pointed out, this is often met with resistance, denial, hostility, even repulsion.

There are some helpful resources—a recording of the book launch (featuring the three editors and Mitzi J. Smith, who contributed a powerful chapter to the volume), a link to an extract, another link to a blog post—available here. At the launch, the editors discussed how what is relatively new, is not the descriptions of abuse in the accounts of Jesus’s torture but the application of the language of sexual abuse to these descriptions. 

Screen capture from the book launch (see:

When language of sexual abuse is applied to the experiences endured by Jesus, reactions can be ones of intense discomfort. Sometimes this is because, as David Tombs explains at the book’s launch, the notion of Jesus as sexually abused is readily equated with Jesus being lessened. Several chapters in the book dig down into this idea, talking back to the notion that victims and survivors of abuse are lessened. It is not, emphatically, the abused who are shameful or lessened—not Jesus, not any victim or survivor of sexual abuse. 

As the book also discusses, when the reasons for discomfort and unease are explored with compassion, acknowledgement and embracing of Jesus as victim of abuse, can bring and has brought comfort and healing to other victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

The book arrives into a wider context where the massive scale of sexual abuse, including in church-run institutions and by church leaders, is becoming ever clearer. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia and the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse in the UK are just two sources exposing the scale and extent of such trauma.

This book is a brave book. It is brave, because it shines a light not only on sexual abuse itself, but on the abuse that derives from denial of sexual abuse and from the stigma wrongly and damagingly attached to sexual abuse. 

The book contains a remarkable diversity of contributors, including many from the Global South. It is also diverse in its responses, with sections on ‘Biblical and Textual Studies’, ‘Stations of the Cross’, ‘Parsing Culture, Context and Perspectives’ and ‘Sexual Abuse, Trauma and the Personal’. Many of the chapters pack a punch and leave you pensive for a long time after you finish reading them. 

This is a book that provokes reaction and action. It is a book that can make us feel conscious, and also consciously kinder. Thank you.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Research-Based Action Against Spiritual Abuse

IICSA, the ‘Spiritual Abuse: Coercive Control in Religions’ Conference, and the research of Andrew Graystone

The designation ‘spiritual abuse’ is becoming widely used to describe a range of abusive phenomena occurring within religious and spiritual traditions and contexts. These phenomena include sexual abuse, physical violence, coercion, psychological and emotional control. Spiritual abuse can take place in religious households, in faith communities and faith-based organisations, and in religious institutions. Its victims and survivors are diverse – of any gender, ethnic and social group, class, age.

The meticulous work of IICSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, has been at the forefront of revealing and examining the scale of sexual abuse directed at children. This has included historical and more recent abuse in religious organisations and settings, as well as abuse by religious leaders. 

This year has seen IICSA’s publication of the ‘Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings Investigation Report’, as well as IICSA’s recommendations for child protection, procedures, and training (2021). Additionally, IICSA’s Anglican Church Investigation Report (2020) was introduced to the House of Commons (March 2021) and the government has now proposed to change the law in the way suggested by IICSA.

“Impressionable”, by emilio labrador (@CreativeCommons, CC BY 2.0 licence)

Alongside IICSA, we want to praise also the research-based action exemplified by the conference ‘Spiritual Abuse: Coercive Control in Religions’, hosted by the School of Psychology and the Department for Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Chester (September 2021). The conference created a safe and constructive space for practitioners, academics, statutory groups, and survivor groups, representing or informing about various religious traditions and contexts. The conference provided a wealth of information and facilitated collaborations and steps towards understanding, preventing, and healing from spiritual abuse. 

This conference was also a shining example of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies enabling incredibly important and multidisciplinary collaborations – both within the University of Chester and beyond. The Department has an amply deserved reputation – both for superb and timely research, and for effective and well-received teaching. And yet, earlier this year, the Department was threatened with redundancies. These threats are aptly described as acts of sabotage and vandalism. In a remarkable show of perseverance amid such strain, the Department co-hosted one of the highlight conferences of the year. Moreover, it did so with all the sensitivity and professionalism required for such a complex and painful topic. Particular praise is due to key organisers and steering group members Lisa Oakley (one of the foremost authorities on spiritual abuse and expert witness to IICSA), Dawn Llewellyn (one of our activists from 2017), and Wendy Dossett. An incredible achievement!

We also want to celebrate Andrew Graystone’s book Bleeding for Jesus: John Smyth and the cult of Iwerne camps (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2021), which was published this year. The book gives a full account of the violent spiritual abuse perpetrated by John Smyth and reports on the failures of religious, including Anglican, institutions in acknowledging, let alone addressing, ameliorating, or helping to repair, the suffering of Smyth’s many victims and survivors. (For a recorded discussion with the author and others about this book, see here.) 

Published by Darton, Longman & Todd, 2021

Like the work of IICSA and the Spiritual Abuse conference, Graystone’s book makes clear the important and life-saving contribution that responsible and sensitive research makes in confronting, and managing the harm of spiritual abuse. 

Thank you for taking a stand, amplifying respectfully victims’ and survivors’ voices, and making a difference.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… the Centre for the Study of Bible & Violence!

Today we celebrate the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence (CSBV). The Centre is part of Bristol Baptist College and has a firmly theological foundation. Its director is the fabulous Helen Paynter, a long-time Shiloh supporter, one of our 2019 activists, author of the second volume in our Routledge Focus series (see a Q&A with Helen about this book here), as well as of a book on the Bible and domestic violence (reviewed here). Helen also featured in our lockdown series.

The Centre’s vibrant blog is a hub for academic research on the Bible and violence, providing a forum for researchers at every level. In addition, its ‘Applied Arm’ offers resources for preventing or tackling abuses within church settings. 

CSBV has its own podcast (‘Guns and God’) and its own open access journal, Journal for the Study of Bible and Violence (JSBV). This journal is, as stated on the CSBV website, ‘committed to global scholarship and to encouraging emerging scholars’.

CSBV podcast (from the CSBV website)

In 2021, CSBV hosted a large international online conference—‘From the Rising to the Setting Sun: Global Perspectives on Bible and Violence’—and launched its Routledge monograph series ‘Bible and Violence’. The aim of the series is that ‘Each volume will describe and evaluate a well-delineated situation of structural or physical violence, within which the Bible has been or is being weaponised by its actants. It will also, from a perspective that is both academically critical and confessionally committed, offer a constructive interpretation of the relevant texts or themes which is irenic, moderate, and promotes human flourishing.’ The call for proposals is now open.

While the tenor of CSBV is distinct from that of the Shiloh Project, the two have a number of aims in common. Indeed, we recently launched our co-run informal mentoring scheme for postgraduates and early career researchers working on violent and distressing topics in religion/the Bible. (For more information, see here.)

Thank you, CSBV, for your support, important research-based peace-building work, and energetic activism.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Shiloh’s Routledge Focus series!

Today we celebrate our Routledge Focus book series. The Shiloh Project was the inspiration for the series and the series title—‘Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible’—is the same as the sub-title for the Shiloh Project. 

Routledge Focus volumes are concise, no more than 50,000 words in length. Each volume In our series, consequently, is sharply focused. Each represents research-based activism on a theme within the orbit of religion and rape culture. While unified by this larger theme and purpose, the published and forthcoming volumes evidence considerable variety.

We endeavour to publish around three volumes per year. This year, two volumes appeared and a third is due out in January. (The publication of the third volume was delayed on account of its sensitive content, which had to be carefully vetted by Routledge’s legal team—more on that shortly.)

The first series volume of 2021 is by Shiloh co-director Caroline Blyth (profiled as one of our 2017 activists). The title of her volume is Rape Culture, Purity Culture, and Coercive Control in Teen Girl Bibles. Caroline examines several bibles marketed to teen girls and demonstrates how they perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes including rape myths at the heart of rape culture. It’s a searing read that will have you questioning how on earth such publications can justify their claims of helping young women grow in faith, hope and love. Caroline demonstrates the damage perpetuated by purity cultures, and systematically peels back how some teen girl bibles echo or affirm the strategies of coercively controlling parents or intimate partners. It’s brilliantly done. (To hear Caroline talk about her book in an episode of the Shiloh Podcast, see here.)

Excerpt from p.3 of Caroline’s book

The second series volume of 2021 is Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar’s Trafficking Hadassah: Collective Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and in the African Diaspora. Ericka’s book identifies the enterprise of rounding up girls from across the empire for the Persian king’s harem, as constituting sexual trafficking on a huge scale. After refuting claims that this is some light-hearted biblical story about a beauty contest, Ericka highlights parallels between sex trafficking in the book of Esther and the cultural memories, histories, and materialized pain of African(a) girls and women during the Maafa, or slave trade. The book is a powerful call, both to responsible Bible reading and to action in the face of human rights violation. (Ericka, too, is featured on the Shiloh Podcast: hear Ericka talking about her book here. For a short Q&A with Ericka, see here.)

‘Slavery’, by quadelirus (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 and available @CreativeCommons)

The third volume has a publication date of 18 January 2022 and is available for pre-order now. This one is by Miryam Clough and has the title Vocation and Violence: The Church and #MeToo. Miryam’s book begins by pointing out that sexual violence is systemic in many workplace settings, including in Christian churches. From here, she focuses on how, among many other devastating consequences, this can destroy women’s careers and vocational aspirations. Because Miryam’s study draws on empirical evidence, including personal stories from survivors of clergy abuse, it required scrutiny by the Routledge legal team. The book is an intense and often painful exposition of clergy sexual abuse of adult women, the conditions that support it, and the pain left in its wake. Bringing testimony into dialogue with theoretical perspectives, the book also makes constructive suggestions for theological models that can heal a broken Church.

‘Devil and Praying Women’, Linde Church, Gotland (from CreativeCommons)

We are delighted with the seven published series titles and excited about the further six that are under contract and due for release over the next two years. 

The volumes are making a timely and important contribution to scholarship on sexual and gender-based violence in religious texts and contexts. They are also ideal for teaching, given their compactness and their availability in affordable e-book format. 

If you, or someone you know, is interested in publishing in our series, please contact series co-editor Johanna ( Volumes for the series can be sole-authored, co-authored, or edited collections of essays. Proposals are peer-reviewed, and manuscripts must meet Routledge’s criteria for academic rigour and marketability. Routledge prides itself on a prompt production process and on being in the forefront of publishing cutting-edge research. All volumes are copy edited to a very high standard. Titles appear first in hardback and e-version and, sometimes, later, in paperback, too.

We’d love to hear from prospective contributing authors, and also, from anyone with feedback on volumes in the series, or on topics you’d like to see represented.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… the Statement by the Wijngaards Institute!

Today we celebrate ‘The Academic Statement on the Ethics of Free and Faithful Same-Sex Relationships’, which was guided and published by members of the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research. The Statement was launched in May 2021. You can find it here. (Shiloh followers will see some familiar names among the signatories.)

If you are homosexual or same-gender-loving and devout, to be told the faith community, spiritual leaders, sacred scriptures, or deities you hold dear condemn who you are and whom you love is violence.

Such condemnation has caused significant harm to untold human lives over a considerable span of time. 

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church, the largest religious denomination, and the oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, with around 1.5 billion members worldwide. It has also contributed significantly to this harm, which can rightly be called a form of religious violence or spiritual abuse

(Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)

The aim of the Statement, which exists in multiple languages (with more translations under way), is first, to alert Vatican authorities and Catholic bishops across the world to the disconnect between papal teaching, on the one hand, and recent academic scholarship about human sexuality and sexual orientation, on the other. Second, the Statement aims to bring rigorous scholarship to the endeavour of creating and promoting inclusive Christian communities. 

The Statement is of value particularly to those who desire a robust theological and scriptural foundation when they challenge and confront homophobia that is generated by Christian figures, or that uses Christian scripture or theological concepts.

The Statement is not the last word on the matter. However, it makes a positive contribution towards challenging the sexualised toxicity, violence and discrimination that is homophobia. 

There are more conversations that need to continue alongside the Statement. These include conversations about the problematic content of biblical and other religiously authoritative texts and what best to do with and about such content, about abusive theologies, and abusive and abuse-tolerating religious institutions and hierarchies, and about the possibility of fulfilling relationships that may with integrity reinterpret the word ‘faithful’ to mean something other than ‘monogamous and life-long’.

The Statement is meticulously researched and makes its case persuasively and powerfully. We hope it will be widely read and disseminated. Above all, we hope it will achieve its aims and reduce homophobia and the suffering homophobia brings.

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