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16 Days of Activism

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 ([email protected]). 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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16 Days of celebrating activism… Mmapula Diana Kebaneilwe!

Today we celebrate scholar activist Dr. Mmapula Diana Kebaneilwe.

A long-time Shiloh Project participant and supporter, Mmapula has featured as one of our activists in 2017, as well as in last year’s lockdown series.

For all the many months of ongoing Covid-related difficulties, which have hit Mmapula’s homeland of Botswana hard, she has had an impressive string of achievements this year.

First, there is the publication of Mother Earth, Mother Africa and Mission (Sun Press, 2021 and see here), which Mmapula edited together with Seblewengel Daniel and Angeline Savala. This volume grew out of the gathering of The Circle for Concerned African Women Theologians in Gaborone, Botswana in 2019. It contains an impressive line-up of African-centred contributions on the theme of theology, ecology, and sustainability. The introduction to the volume, reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic, is by Mmapula herself and imprinted with her wisdom.

Mmapula is also working on two other books. One, about to be submitted to Sheffield Phoenix Press, is a refinement of her PhD research: a womanist reading of Proverbs 31:10-31. The second, under contract with Routledge, examines intersections of religion and gender-based violence in Botswana. Both books combine nuanced scholarship with activist purpose. Like Mmapula herself, her work, too, makes our world a brighter and better place.

One more thing to celebrate is that Mmapula has been awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers! This means that Mmapula will be spending one year as guest researcher at the University of Bamberg in Germany. She will be setting off just as soon as she’s permitted. 

Huge congratulations, Mmapula!

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… The Shiloh Podcast!

Every day, throughout the 16 Days of Activism, as we reflect back on the past year, we celebrate an activist person or endeavour associated with The Shiloh Project.

Today we celebrate the Shiloh Podcast. (Check it out here.)

Every one of the podcast’s 11 episodes provides something that challenges assumptions, provokes thought, and motivates to action. 

The Shiloh Podcast is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant led by members of the Shiloh Project. The first episodes of the Shiloh Podcast were launched in mid 2020. All episodes feature interviews with Rosie Dawson, one of our 16 Days activists of 2018.

A graduate of theology, Rosie has more than 20 years of experience in the BBC’s Religion and Ethics department. She is now a freelance journalist, documentary maker, and radio producer, with specialisation in religion and theology. 

Rosie Dawson

During lockdown, podcasts have become particularly important. For us, the Shiloh Podcast became a way to publicise important research on the intersections of religion and sexual and gender-based violence, making such research widely accessible.

Episodes of 2021, consist of interviews with:

David Tombs, one of our activists of 2017, about his research on Jesus as victim of sexual abuse;

Ericka Dunbar, one of our activists of 2019, about her research on sexual trafficking and the book of Esther;

Eve Parker, about her research on South India’s Devadasi women, and…

Emily Colgan, Shiloh Project co-director and one of our activists of 2017, on the Prophet Jeremiah’s representation of the land as violated female.

We are proud of the podcast, and we hope you will take a listen and recommend it to others who might be interested. 

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Raymond Brian!

Raymond: “When I look back on my life, I see pain, mistakes and heart ache. When I look in the mirror, I see strength, love, learned lessons and pride in myself. One word can change someone’s entire life. I want to inspire people, I want someone to look at me and say ‘because of you I didn’t give up.’”

Image courtesy of Raymond Brian

If you follow the Shiloh Project, you will no doubt remember Raymond Brian, aka Mother Nature, who featured as one of our activists in 2019. Who can forget Raymond showing us how to ‘orange the world’? Raymond is, without a doubt, one of our most memorable, dynamic, and vibrant activists.

Raymond hails from Uganda and when we last posted about them they were living as a refugee in Kenya. Part of the LGBTQ+ refugee community in Nairobi for 5 years, Raymond co-founded a community-based activist organisation called The Nature Network (TNN). (You can read an earlier Shiloh post about TNN and a project Raymond co-led, here.)

Since then, much has happened that we can celebrate with Raymond. First, they introduced and starred in a short film called Daniel in the Homophobic Lions’ Den (available on youtube, here and here). This film featured in the International Film Festival ‘Changing the Story’ (2020) and won the audience favourite award. 

Second, Raymond features in another fabulous film, Kenyan Christian Queer (2020), directed by Aiwan Obinyan and now available on youtube (see here). This magnificent film explores the vibrant interplay and strong associations between queerness and Christianity in Kenya. It’s awesome.

Third, Raymond’s co-authored book, Sacred Queer Stories: Ugandan LGBTQ+ Refugee Lives and the Bible (James Currey, 2021), appeared earlier this year (see here).

Cover of Book, published by James Currey (Boydell & Brewer Ltd)

From now until Human Rights Day (10 December) you can order the print book with a 50% discount, using code BB050. See here.

And fourth, following resettlement in the USA in the middle of 2020, Raymond has earlier this year completed their nursing qualification – with distinction!

Raymond you are an inspiration. Thank you – we salute you!

If you would like to contribute to The Nature Network and help other LGBTQ+ refugees facing challenges as they await resettlement, please check out their facebook page here

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… A Collaboration between The Circle and The Bible in Africa Studies series!

Today we want to celebrate the culmination of a wonderful collaboration: namely, the publication of Covid-19: African Women and the Will to Survive. The collaboration at the heart of this special journal issue is between first, the West Africa chapter of The Circle for Concerned African Women Theologians (‘The Circle’) and second, the Bible in Africa Studies/Exploring Religion in Africa series, based at the University of Bamberg, in Germany. 

The publication is open access and available here. The reference is Bible in Africa Studies 31/Exploring Religion in Africa 8 (2021). 

To give a little more background…

The Circle is a wide-reaching network of African women theologians. It was founded by scholar and activist Mercy Amba Oduyoye. (The Shiloh Project conducted an interview with Mercy Oduyoye and Joyce Boham in late 2018. Please see here.) 

Professor Mercy Amba Oduyoye, founder of The Circle

At the heart of The Circle is the aim to encourage, support, guide, and promote women theologians in writing and publishing. But its concerns are also very much wider and deeper than this. Circle members acknowledge and understand the multiple discriminations at work in their various African contexts. These discriminations are made, for instance, on the basis of sex, gender, poverty, HIV status, as well as in terms of access to health and reproductive care, to education, and to legal and political representation. And all these discriminations impact disproportionately on women and girls. 

The Circle, in the face of this, provides safe spaces, mentoring, and forums for discussion and solution finding. Equipped with solidarity, advice, and support, many go on to empower, motivate and sustain their families and their wider communities – be these scholarly, or faith, or educational, or workplace communities.

The Bible in Africa Studies/Exploring Religion in Africa series (BiAS), meanwhile, is a peer-reviewed, scholarly, open access series promoting research on religion in African settings. The series is led by Professor Joachim Kuegler, one of our 2019 activists. Joachim is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Bamberg. He has a long-standing commitment to advancing scholarship in and about religions in Africa. He has supervised numerous postgraduates and hosted many scholars with specialisation in this area.

Professor Joachim Kuegler (second from left) with some members of the Bible in Africa Studies seminar.

Joachim writes, that exchanges with African students and scholars at his department in Bamberg are “based on the principle of pluriform equality” and further, that “[u]sing the opportunities offered by a rich country (Germany) we try to give academics from Africa a chance to display their talent in exploring the Bible in a contextual life-oriented way.” 

BiAS has been a superb venue for publishing and disseminating scholarship on religion and theology in African settings.

This BiAS publication shows what can happen when two different groups of scholar activists work together. The initial spark came from gender-specialist Joyce Boham (another 2019 Shiloh activist), who directs the Talitha Qumi Institute of Women in Religion and Culture in Legon, Ghana. Joyce opened a conversation about gender justice in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Joyce’s colleague at the Trinity Theological Seminary, Dr. Mark Aidoo, an academic of the Hebrew Bible, endeavoured to take the conversation forward with her. (You can see Mark at work in his classroom here). Next, Joyce and Mark called for contributions, primarily from Circle members in their region. Contributions of many kinds poured in – academic articles, empirical studies, reflections, exegeses, poems… These were then edited by a team that also included Professor Helen A. Labeodan, immediate past general coordinator of The Circle, and Dr. Rose Mary Amenga-Etego, an academic at the University of Ghana. 

This publication arose from this combined effort, and it offers multiple and diverse theological responses to and reflections on the Covid-19 outbreak and pandemic. All contributions are by African scholars and authors. Some contributions are academic, some experiential, and others creative, or impressionistic. 

Reflecting the ethos and commitment of the Circle to nurture and promote the publications by and about African writers, this issue contains the writings of some established but, predominantly, of emerging theologians. For some contributors, this is their first publication in an international series. 

The Circle, furthermore, is committed to social justice and positive change. Covid-19 has, like other crises, thrown into relief social injustices and gendered inequalities. While the pandemic has, indeed, been global, taking a toll on all parts of the inhabited world, striking both rich and poor, the burdens in its wake have not been borne equally. Lockdowns and economic downturns have hit those already afflicted by poverty hardest – and here the nations of Africa are disproportionately represented. Many African citizens have lost their livelihoods and access to education. Where women and girls are concerned, the bulk of caregiving and home-schooling has fallen to women; most of the children no longer receiving an education and forced into marriages are girl-children. With domestic abuse accelerating, the majority of victims are female. Hence, Covid-19 is a worldwide pandemic, but it is also a pandemic with particularly severe consequences for the economically vulnerable and for women and girls. 

Taken together, the contributions in this publication offer a snapshot of (mostly) West African responses to a testing time. 

We celebrate this publication and what it represents in terms of effort, collaboration, resourcefulness, and resilience. Please take a look and please help us spread the word.

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Antonia McGrath!

Today, on the second of the 16 Days of Activism, we celebrate the inspirational achievements of Antonia McGrath, another long-time Shiloh Project supporter. Antonia has featured as one of our activists in 2018, as well as in our Covid-19 lockdown series.

Antonia is co-founder of a community-based and -run non-profit organisation called educate., which is centred in Honduras. Honduras is a beautiful and dynamic place, but it is also blighted by poverty and by gender-based violence. Shockingly, every 23 hours a woman in Honduras violently loses her life. 

educate. works towards fulfilment of human potential in Honduras, by empowering children and youth. This is driven, above all, through community-run initiatives focused on education: such as the creation of libraries and the provision of scholarships.

In 2020, Antonia was honoured for her work with educate. with an Erasmus + International Volunteer Youth Award. This month, she travelled to Yerevan in Armenia to receive her award and give a public lecture. Congratulations, Antonia, on a much-deserved award! 

If you are inspired and can support educate., an award-winning, internationally recognised, youth-run organisation working in Honduras, please consider donating (see here).

(Thank you to educate. for letting us use your images.)

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16 Days of Celebrating Activism … Musa Dube!

Today, 25 November, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism, an annual international campaign that will take us up to Human Rights Day, on 10 December.

In years past, we have participated in the 16 Days by profiling activists associated with the Shiloh Project. This year, we want to give updates on, and to celebrate some of our activists’ recent achievements. The inspiration they provide remains vital at a time when moods are dampened, and progress often hampered, by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and by the sheer scale of the work yet to be done.

Today we celebrate Musa Wenkosi Dube. Musa launched our 16 Days series in 2018. Musa is Professor of New Testament studies. She has spent much of her illustrious career at the University of Botswana and has recently been appointed to a post at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (USA). Integral to Musa’s scholarship is her commitment to activism, and she has done much to challenge and to redress social inequalities. You can read about her important activism and scholarship, in particular her promotion of the rights of women and of persons affected by HIV and AIDS, in her article ‘On Becoming a Change Agent’, available open access (JIBS 2/1 2020, 13–28). 

Today, we want to congratulate Musa on being elected the incoming President for the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). SBL is the oldest and by far largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible. This is a huge and well-deserved honour. We are thrilled.

Musa reports that for now she is ‘struck to silence’. Ever the New Testament scholar, she adds, ‘Now I understand what was happening to the father of John the Baptist, who remained mute at the news of an unexpected child.’

We know full well that when Musa regains her strong and beautiful voice, much wisdom will flow forth. We can’t wait to hear her presidential address. Big congratulations, Musa!

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