Josephine sat up straight, her hair swooping to one side and wearing a purple dress. She is young and pretty, and a shy smile reveals a perfect row of teeth.
“I was so young, that I cannot even remember my age,” whispered Josephine about the night she was circumcised. But she remembers the sequence of events from that night with sharp clarity–most women do. Having pieces of flesh cut away from the most sensitive area of your body is not easy to forget.
She drops her gaze to the floor in front of her and shakes her head when she remembers the pain. “I wasn’t able to even sit up because of the pain I felt everywhere,” said Josephine.
“I should have died there that day,” said Laura Konteh, pressing her lips together to reveal deep dimples on either side of her mouth. She reached up nervously to touch her shoulder and stared at something off in the distance.
“The woman that initiated me did not do it well.” After a long pause, Laura went on, recounting her memories from her circumcision at age nine. “They don’t give you chloroform. I didn’t understand what was going on. No one told me what was about to happen, and I had no idea until I felt the first cut. When I felt the pain I fought back and eventually I became unconscious.”
85-88% percent of the girls in Sierra Leone, West Africa, suffer from FGM. Female genital mutilation is the total or partial removal of the external female genitalia. A cultural symbol of purity designed to reduce and control women’s sexuality, it began in ancient times in the female slave trade in Africa. Males preferred wives who were circumcised because of the belief that they would be virgins. Women perpetuate the practice today in order to make their daughters marriageable. This violation of human rights is usually performed on girls between 5 and 13 years of age. There are no medical benefits; on the contrary, both the short-term and longer term medical consequences can be devastating. Thousands of girls every day have their lives changed as they are staggered by this ugly secret across sub-Sahara Africa and parts of the Middle East.
Why FGM for the Heart of Ministry offering?
“Up until now, the ceremony was taboo and people couldn’t talk about it, even in the church,” said Rev. Moses Conteh, assistant national superintendent of The Wesleyan Church in Sierra Leone. He is speaking softly, but there is an unmistakable intensity in his voice when he goes on to say, “But there is a new openness to this issue and we need to do more. We have to do more. “
The Church in Sierra Leone, in partnership with World Hope International, is determined to seize this opportunity to not only speak out against the injustice of FGM, but to bring with this message the Good News of the gospel: that God values human life, human dignity, and physical and spiritual wholeness.
Why should we prioritize FGM this year? There are many other important issues that could have been selected to be addressed through the Heart of Ministry offering. We have done so and will continue to do so. But our Sierra Leone Wesleyan brothers and sisters have turned to us for help. Every family in our church there is profoundly touched by this, and the leaders have, in the face of certain persecution, determined that it will no longer go unchallenged.
They have successfully confronted FGM locally and the practice has stopped in a few villages. With much prayer, the leaders have concluded that the time is right to try to bring this to an end in the whole nation in 2014! We can help them produce teaching materials, media, and sponsor training for a national movement, or, we can tell them to go it alone.
Now is the time to make plans to partner with the Christians in Sierra Leone to end FGM in the whole country. Support the Heart of Ministry Offering, 2014. Thank you so much!
Hear more of Josephine’s story and learn more about FGM in the new 9-minute video here: www.wesleyan.org/hom. Be sure to check out the RESOURCES button.