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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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07.10.2022

The Broken Silence of the Girls

Hadis Najafi, a 22-year-old Iranian, joined other women and girls to brave an incredibly repressive political regime to ask for freedom and the right to live in safety, rather than fear.

She messaged her friends, ‘I hope in a few years when I look back, I will be happy that everything has changed for the better.’

She was shot dead by security forces an hour later.

The protests are principally about the treatment of women, though disproportionate numbers of casualties also come from ethnic minorities.

Sadly, this story is not particularly new or unique. Tyrannical regimes have long sought to shore up their power through othering specific groups; as time goes on, this only increases in order to maintain the privileges and power of the few.

In Scripture, oppressive power is a recurring characteristic of human sin, found among the people of God and the nations around them. Three features the Bible highlights consistently also feature in the turmoil in Iran.

First, oppressed people are underestimated, such that oppressors fail to recognise their potential. In the stories of Judges, Ehud circumvents the Moabite king’s guards who never suspect that the Hebrews could have the wherewithal to challenge them (3:16–23), and Sisera seeks to hide in a woman’s tent, never imagining a foreign woman could be his downfall (4:21). If women in Iran are considered lesser, with less access to education, work, and experience, it’s easy to underestimate the force they represent.

Second, leaders use escalating amounts of disproportionate force, highlighting the discrepancy between their immense power and the people’s destitution, as with Pharaoh’s oppression of Israel, and Iranian police killing teenage girls.

And finally, oppressive leaders blame others, often the oppressed themselves, as with Pharaoh, and Iran’s tendency to blame ‘foreign’ influences.

The sweep of Scripture shows that no nation or group of people is immune from the risks of tyrannical power. And because misuse of power is endemic in humanity, it is at the heart of how God acts in Christ: through a complete undermining of human power structures, and the demonstration of a different way to be – vulnerable, self-giving, taking on himself the consequences of humanly distorted power and authority.

Hope doesn’t lie in overpowering the oppressor, but in a different way of holding power altogether. This is a call, not just for political leaders but for all of us, to check the kind of relationships we enable and condone in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

Isabelle Hamley
Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops

Comments

  1. ‘Holding power together’ would be a more helpful
    place to begin rather than conclude a discussion about oppression. Power sharing is a worthy aspiration we pray for and continually hope for as Christians. It is rarely achieved or maintained as equality, freedom and peace are held hostage by those who cling to power. My hopes and prayers are with those who suffer such injustices and not least of all those who’ve sacrificed so much in this and other struggles.

    By Maureen Dew  -  7 Oct 2022
  2. A powerful, biblically rooted, succinct insights. Thank you.

    By Neville  -  7 Oct 2022
  3. Amen sister!

    By Gary Stacey  -  7 Oct 2022
  4. This is an excellent post. Contemporary reality addressed by good theology based on the Bible and example of Jesus. I long for more of this and more in our evangelical churches. Having ministered for 30 years these issues are played out in every context I have worked in. Nazir Afzal’s recent Desert Island Discs is a great accompaniment to this post.

    By Ashley Hardingham (Revd)  -  7 Oct 2022
  5. Thanks to Isabelle. This is a characteristically deep biblical reflection on a contemporary issue.
    The creation truth is that each human is made in, and bears, the image of God. This in contrast with the default view in ancient cultures, epitomised by the pharoahs referred to in the article, that only the rulers bore the godly stamp, which conveniently ligitimised them treating the common people like dirt. This biblical truth is an irritant that in every age wordly authorities try to ignore in their endemic misuse of power.
    Closer to home, the forceful arrest of Christian mother Caroline Farrow (Google it) in her own home by Surrey Police should shock us all. Please check it out and, particularly if you live in Surrey, let the PCC (whose role is to be the “voice of the people”) know what you think.

    By chris blainey  -  8 Oct 2022

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