We dare not repeat the mistakes of the past

Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula

Published Nov 30, 2023


Mabila Mathebula

In his autobiography, The Second Life, Professor Chris Barnard, narrated a story of how he had struggled to utter appropriate words of comfort to a family who had hosted him in London and whose house was burgled.

To add insult to injury, criminals helped themselves to the family heirlooms. Barnard appeared malleable, like soft clay in the hands of a sculptor when the victim told him never to cry over something that could not cry over you.

However, how does one comfort an emotionally and physically abused person? The emotional and physical wounds of abuse are ever festering. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign must not only zero-in on educational awareness but must also address the festering wounds of gender-based violence.

For millennia, GVB has been swept under the carpet. Simply put, GBV is not only a contemporary challenge but also an ancient challenge that warrants a contemporary solution. In ancient societies, violence and abuse of women were the norm and not human rights issues.

In my book, Family Sunday at Home: Biblical Lessons for African Families, I graphically demonstrated this point by depicting the story of an abusive Jewish priest to drive a point home. A Levite or Jewish priest had a concubine from Bethlehem, but he did not treat her fairly and she returned to her father’s house.

After four months, the Levite went to Bethlehem with his servant to negotiate her return. His father-in-law was happy to see him, despite hearing of his abuse, and gave his daughter to him again. The father entertained them for several days. The Levite had to plead with his father-in-law to take his wife home.

They waved goodbye, but when they reached Jebus in the area of the tribe of Benjamin, it was late and the servant advised his master to look for an inn for the night. They could not find an available room, but a kind old man in Jebus heard of their plight and invited them to his house. His wife stretched their meal to accommodate the guests.

As they ate dinner, some Benjamite men knocked on the door and demanded to make love to the Levite priest. The old host pleaded with the men not to hurt the Levite, and offered them his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine instead.

The Levite was under emotional and ethical pressure, but he agreed to offer his concubine to the men, who all raped her for the whole night. At daybreak, they left her at the door, where she fell. The Levite, instead of comforting her, took a knife, killed her and divided her body into 12 parts.

When the men of Israel heard about this rape, they killed thousands of men of the tribe of Benjamin.

What does society collectively do today when rape happens in broad daylight? I answer; we alienate the victim from society and expect her to bear her own cross.

This incident recalls the story of the rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brother against the rapist. There is a similar story about the wicked towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, where angels visited Lot, and some men wanted to rape the angels. Lot offered them his two daughters instead. He saw nothing wrong in exposing his daughters to the risk.

The crime of rape plagues us today. Eve set the first example of a strong woman as a warrior in the Biblical Eden. She took up challenges, instead of waiting for blessings or curses. Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian wise man, described a warrior as a mindset, not in terms of gender or occupation. A warrior takes everything as a challenge, not just good or bad luck, or a blessing or curse. Good men and women must be warriors to stop violence against women and children.

The concubine from Bethlehem was in an abusive relationship but her parents entertained her abuser and treated him kingly. They failed in their duty to protect her. Parents must protect their children against abuse. The million-dollar question is; Will our contemporary society repeat the mistakes of the past?

Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in Construction Management

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