16 days and a bit to get our act together.   

What would Jesus do?   If you are concerned about putting Christ back into Christmas it cannot only be about his birth and babyhood but about all of who he was and what he stood for.  His birth came about “in the fullness of time ’ for God’s salvation plan.

Right now we are in the time of the first week of Advent 2017 and in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.  World Aids Day has also been added to the international calendar.  We in South Africa are using a hashtag  #unite against abuse.

1st December was also the beginning of the month-long combined campaign of MARFAM and the Knights of Da Gama to promote PUT CHRIST BACK INTO CHRISTMAS  MARFAM has long made a habit of incorporating a family focus into events and commemorations in line with our vision of the Church as a Family and also the secular SA White Paper on Families.  When there is a campaign about gender equality or gender based violence for us it is not only about empowering women and girls, or even empowering men and boys which is  being taken up too, but often it is each more or less in isolation.  The saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a long time favourite and is also used by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium.  It makes a lot of sense when put into a family context.  Yes, each of the gender groups needs to be supported and empowered, but the overall context is the family, the place where every family member belongs.

In November Briefing Paper 443 the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO),  reporting on a Round Table on the Boy Child, repeatedly noted that currently in society there tends to be a greater focus on the needs of the girl child.  Boys are vulnerable too and may be neglected.  From early childhood they, like all children,  they need a secure family environment and ideally a father’s support. They need to learn assertiveness rather than aggression.  A need for a sense of belonging especially in adolescence can drive them to join a gang.  A lack of early support can lead to later violence and abusive behaviour.

A Daily Maverick article on 4 December on HIV/AIDS picks up a similar point. Men are shy away from testing, they do not visit medical support facilities as readily as women do who go for family planning, pre-natal check-ups etc.   Articles around International Men’s Day too noted aspects of male vulnerability. Men are less healthy – their life expectancy is lower – and their suicide rate is much higher.

The CPLO briefing paper refers to the ground-breaking Kinsey report of 1948 “the key to good gender relations is found not in the bedroom but in the kitchen, where tasks are shared and respect exists.”  There is clearly all kinds of work that can be done in families this month, ideally good, wholesome stuff, not drinking and driving or partying where sexual harassment is too common.   Why should the Christmas shopping all be mom’s responsibility and who spends most hours sweating over a hot stove and keeping kids occupied?

Holiday time is ideal family time and on my recent travels to the Eastern Cape I found many families already preparing to “go home” for holidays.  Christmas is around the corner, just over 16 days away.  Playing and praying can find its place with some activities or the short daily reflections for building up the family tree of Jesus.   16th December, the Day of Reconciliation can be an opportunity for making peace with one another and can be followed by confession for those who are Catholic.

Whether it is #uniteagainstabuse,  HIV infection, or holiday or holyday fun let it not be a question of male and female, “either or”, or even “both and” but all together. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  May it all be a great month in every way.   TR Family Weekly 6 December 2017

For suggestions visit www.marfam.org.za/2017-family-year-planner/advent-and-christmas

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