Our series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors highlights those who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence. Marcelo D. Leites is general secretary of the World Student Christian Federation.
When did you first learn about Thursdays in Black?
Leites: I have known the Thursdays in Black campaign from my work as regional secretary of the World Student Christian Federation in Latin America and the Caribbean. At a global level, the federation has been working on gender issues for many years, and since Thursdays in Black intensified—both globally and regionally—we have carried out different initiatives where we publicly show our support for the campaign by wearing black.
From my new role as general secretary of the federation, we have been able to make this support more visible at an international level, and we are trying to make a strong commitment to the campaign so that the federation could be a formal partner in this adventure of preaching the good news about justice towards women.
What do you see as the obstacles to reaching gender justice?
Leites: On the path of fighting for gender justice, at the individual level but also at a representative level of an institution, I have found many allies to walk with. But, there have been also times that I have come across more patriarchal institutions within the ecumenical movement and the civil society as well.
However, by acting with pedagogy and preaching not only with words but also with examples, we can meet and invite the other to join justice. Violence is not only represented in its last instance by death and rape; we are all part of a system that reproduces micro-violence towards women throughout the world.
In what ways will the federation deepen its commitment?
Leites: In the federation, we have been working on gender violence issues for decades. For us, it is a central theme in our biblical and theological reflection, as well as in our prophetic action and political advocacy.
The policies that have been in operation for decades have become part of an institutional culture, of our identity. However, we recognize that we have to continue deepening our field of action and promoting a culture among young people to end all types of violence against women.
For the World Student Christian Federation, as well as for me, at a personal, political and prophetic action level, gender justice and actions against all types of gender-based violence must be on the agenda of the entire ecumenical movement.
How do you see a comprehensive solution taking place?
Leites: On the one hand, young people have the opportunity to learn from the new generations of women who are mobilizing in the streets and, on the other hand, ecumenical leaders have the responsibility to listen to the leadership of women who have taken the initiative.
We must promote a joint solution, where men support women’s leadership, listen to them and accompany them along the way. And, as we accompany this work and we are an active part of the solution, we also transform our own ways of relating as men with women, children and with all the creation.
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