Bishop urges South Africans to act after rape, murder of teen

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican bishop has urged South Africans to end gender-based violence after a teenage girl was brutally gang-raped, mutilated and murdered.

The Rt. Rev. Raphael Hess, bishop of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay in South Africa, made the call following the attack and subsequent death of 17-year-old Anene Booysen on Feb. 3, in the town of Bredasdorp.

Hess said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened and outraged by the brutal gang rape and mutilation that led to the death of Anene Booysen. We urge everyone from the local community and national level to act.”

The brutal nature of her death not only horrified her local community and South Africa, but has stirred an international outcry coming so closely on the heels of the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in India in December.

Gender-based violence was a key topic discussed at a meeting between Hess and senior advisers at St. Andrew parish in Cape Town. The meeting was called to reflect on a range of “important concerns facing the people of the diocese and the country.” Other topics included education and the conditions of farm workers in South Africa.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Hess and his team asked a string of questions in light of the violence and “horrific murders” in the country: “Why the never-ending spiral of violence against women in our society? Why the constant rape, battering and gender-related violence?

“What is happening within our families, our schools, the faith communities and other institutions of socialization that men, in particular, are not being taught to care, protect, show compassion and live in healthy relationships with women and children?”

In its Diocesan Synod held in September last year, the diocese declared “gender and related matters” one of its six mission priorities.

“We will confront the demons in our midst such as gender-based violence while growing in our commitment to enable our communities and members to transform their minds, hearts and behavior,” read the statement. “This will make South Africa a place in which the dignity of every person is inviolable.”

The education sector is another area that was addressed. Hess and his team called on all South Africans to make education the central focus of a “new and constructive socio-political activism” and call for it to be fixed “now.”

Various reports on education in South Africa have revealed a bleak picture of teaching — especially in government schools — illustrating “severe issues in the education, experience and management of education professionals.”

“It is essential that everyone who cares for education declares themselves committed to a new struggle of sacrifice and service and commitment to make education work for all,” read the statement.

Hess and his team also expressed their concerns for the farming industry “crisis” in the country. “As Anglicans, we hold dear the principles of justice for all, respect for human lives and every person’s right to a decent living wage,” read the statement. “In addition, we believe in the equitable sharing of the country’s wealth and resources.”

In a country that has had a lot of worker protests and strikes, especially in the mining and farming sectors lately, the team acknowledged the advances made in “recent negotiations” but encouraged ongoing conversations by the sector.

To this end, Hess and his team encouraged farm workers and the labor unions to “continue using legal means within the law to achieve their objectives.”

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