Church combats domestic violence in Arabian peninsula

Church combats domestic violence in Arabian peninsula

Migrant workers participate in group discussion at the We Abhor Violence Everywhere seminar in Ras al-Khaimah, UAE, Nov. 14, 2014. Credit: Fr. Cajetan Menezes.
Migrant workers participate in group discussion at the We Abhor Violence Everywhere seminar in Ras al-Khaimah, UAE, Nov. 14, 2014. Credit: Fr. Cajetan Menezes.

.- The family ministry office serving expatriate Catholics in the Arabian peninsula held a workshop last week to help end domestic violence by creating awareness and a change in attitudes.

The symposium is aimed at creating violence-free families, and is concerned by the ignorance and silence on domestic violence within the migrant worker communities in Arabia.

The Catholic family ministries symposium on violence free families for creating awareness and change in behavioral attitude is concerned of the ignorance and silence on domestic violence within the migrant working communities in the Arabian vicariate.

“We are deeply concerned by peoples' failing to acknowledge various forms of domestic violence, and furthermore the silence of victims in the Gulf region,” Fr. Cajetan Menezes, head of family ministry for the Vicariates Apostolic of both Northern and Southern Arabia, told CNA Nov. 16.

“The goal of the conference is that trained leaders will return back to network and act as catalysts to further train and spread the awareness campaign in their respective parishes and associations for achieving a social transformation of behavioral change,” he added.

“WAVE: We Abhor Violence Everywhere” was held Nov. 14 under the patronage of Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia. It was the second workshop on domestic violence the vicariate has held, the first having been in May.

More than 250 parish leaders gathered at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Ras al-Khaimah, one of the seven constitutive emirates of the United Arab Emirates, located 150 miles northeast of Abu Dhabi. The parish was consecrated in 2013, and its parish hall can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

According to Fr. Menezes, the WAVE campaign “aims to identify the root causes of violence, to increase awareness about every form of violence, and to build a culture of love, respect and appreciation between all men and women, all communities and religions.”

Nearly all the faithful of the Arabian vicariates are expatriates or migrant workers, largely from Asia, with some from Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Indians and Filipinos are the largest groups.

“The current workshop targeted primarily the Indian subcontinent community, but also other nationalities participated,” Fr. Menezes said.

“The training program also aims in identifying the sources of violence and the whole patriarchal male supremacy mindset that concerns especially women and children, who tend to be easy victims of abuse in Asia.”

Fr. Menezes added that there is a cultural tendency among south Asians not to acknowledge some subtler forms of violence, such as taking control of a wife's earnings, or not allowing a wife to work.

Fr. Menezes also noted that the problem in the vicariates is exacerbated by Arabic culture, also supremely male-dominated, where women are deprived of equality and privileges.

Violence against women can be justified by cultural norms, and victims can be persecuted – in the United Arab Emirates, women who charge they have been raped can be criminally charged with extramarital sex if they cannot prove rape.

“The main symptom of dysfunction we see is the spiralling magnitude of growing violence in overt and covert forms, in families, our streets, workplaces, movies … things are getting out of hand.”

It is not “just a women’s issue, but a human justice issue,” Fr. Menezes affirmed. “If we want a stable society, then we need well-adjusted families.”

He added that further major challenges on the Arabian peninsula are economic and human violence, such as unjust wages and virtual indentured servitude; workplace harassment; human trafficking; and sexual abuse.
Victims often fail to report because of a fear of deportation; being financially beholden to loan sharks; shame; and laxity in investigation by police.
The WAVE workshop addressed these issues through case studies, role-playing, and group discussion.

Fr. Menezes noted that the Synod on the Family included discussion of domestic violence: he was himself a presenter at the synod, being a representative of Middle East communities.

“The Church is not sufficiently speaking on domestic violence, and the Church has to be a voice to the victims,” he told the synod fathers.

Since 2006, Fr. Menezes' Catholic Family Ministry has assisted both the Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia, which serves Catholics in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen; and the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Arabia, which serves those in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Tags: United Arab Emirates, Synod on the Family, Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia, UAE

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