President Jimmy Carter recently blamed much of the world’s violence on religious hypocrisy. He told the annual Human Rights Defenders Forum at The Carter Center that “we are at a turning point in history,” choosing between “peace and human suffering.”
President Carter spoke about global violence, and more specifically, violence against girls and women. As a conservative Baptist who still teaches a weekly Sunday School class, he may surprise people with his criticism of religion. He is so passionate about the subject that he wrote the book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” in 2014. He says:
‘I DESCRIBE THE ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE PERSISTENCE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST FEMALES OF ALL AGES.’
‘We must also realize that women are key agents of the changes we need.’
President Carter wants to see more women in leadership roles:
‘Women are excluded from leadership in religion, in family and community decision-making, and in legislatures and other political offices.’
‘When half of the world’s population is not consulted on important decisions and policies, it is no wonder that so many problems persist.’
Last week the Nobel Peace laureate spoke to over 60 global activists, offering up a bold solution. He said that we need leadership, not fear:
‘What is needed now, more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity.’
‘I have spoken out the best I could about the abuse of religious scriptures to promote various forms of violence, including the death penalty, discrimination and abuse of women, and unjust resort to warfare.’
‘These are direct violations of my own faith and other great religions, which are founded on love, kindness to strangers, not judging others, justice, and resolving disputes in the least violent manner.’
We often think of radical mideastern groups’ violence against women, but the U.S. experiences violence against women, too:
‘The cynical use of religion by groups like al-Qaeda, Da’esh, and Boko Haram has had catastrophic consequences to which the United Nations and major governments have failed to respond adequately.’
‘[We Must] aggressively challenge our society’s acceptance of violence, which should never be seen as normal or as the preferred means of solving problems.’
‘But violence is now normal in our homes, communities, in our culture, in law enforcement and in foreign policy.’
The forum also explored some major leaders using religion as a form of control:
‘…how girl children face discrimination even before they are born, through sex-selective abortions and infanticide.’
‘the horrible forced marriage of young girls by the millions, the trafficking of women and girls into sex slavery, and the tragic phenomena of genital cutting and so-called “honor killings.”’
The ongoing problem of sexual violence also plagues almost every nation.
One in three women face intimate violence sometime in their lives.
Sexual assault in our American military and on our college campuses continues on a scale that is direct proof that male abuse and domination of women has become normalized. It’s a normal thing to expect.
We ignore the fact that women are paid about 23 percent less than men for a year’s hard work.
Carter also brought into his discussion the impact of violence against women as it relates to warlike behavior:
‘Societies that exclude or permit abuse of women are more violent and warlike, while having women at the forefront of peace efforts or community dialogue tends to calm tensions and avert hostilities.’
The 91-year-old said:
‘…when women are empowered in significant numbers, in the corporate world as well as in politics and in daily life, better decisions are made and more sustainable solutions are adopted.’
‘We need to amplify the voices of peacemakers and human rights defenders, especially women.’
He spoke about the difference between “self-defense” and “excessive force.”
‘The distinction between self-defense and excessive force against others has been undermined in the global wars on terror, drugs, and crime.’
President Carter sees collaboration between government and citizens as an important means to “reduce violence, advance human rights, and create economic prosperity.” He also brokered a peace accord between Israel and Egypt, the Camp David Accord, that has lasted nearly 40 years.