By Kylie Wingjan
Acting International Programs Manager
AOA’s Safe, Strong Communities program in the Solomon Islands uses restorative justice principles alongside pastoral care to reduce gender-based violence.
This project is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
How do you think you would respond if you woke up one morning to find that 20 ex-prisoners had moved into the house next door? Would you welcome them with open arms, modelling Christ’s love for the downtrodden, the outcast, the poorest and the least? Would you want to see them personally transformed and reconciled within themselves, with their families and with an ever-faithful God? This is precisely what our partners in the Solomon Islands are doing through their newest ministry Half Home.
Half Home is the vision of Father Alfred, a senior priest with our partner, the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM). Following the serving of their sentences and release from prison, men will be provided the opportunity for transitional reintegration to their communities through a holistic residential program.
Many of the men will have convictions for family violence-related offences, so counselling and pastoral care, accompanied by in-depth teaching on a biblically-based framework of ‘Equality in Christ’ will seek to bring about deep personal transformation. Father Alfred believes that only through spiritual reconciliation within themselves will these men have the opportunity to heal relationships with their partners, families and communities.
Solomon Islands has the third highest incidence of domestic violence in the world, with 64% of women aged 15–49 who have been in a relationship experiencing some form of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner1. Through our new program, we are proud to partner with ACOM to build communities’ capacity to uphold the rights of women and youth. We are doing this through improved economic opportunities for women and youth, as well as a reconstructed understanding of gender violence underpinned by a theological framework emphasising God’s plan for universal equity and human value.
Male role models like Father Alfred, who take a stand on violence against women, become activists for women’s equality and oppose violence in all its forms, are critical to bringing about behaviour change in other men. Our program recognises this and is working closely with Father Alfred and others like him to equip communities, including faith and traditional leaders, with the knowledge and capabilities needed to create an environment where the dignity of all people is valued and respected.
1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016