This week hasn’t been a good news week for women.

A lady in the Sudan is on death row because she became a Christian. Her mother is Christian and her father is Muslim. She married a Christian man and converted. That action earned her the death penalty. She wasn’t executed straight away because she was 8 months pregnant with her second child. The authorities have been “gracious” and have “kindly” allowed her to give birth first. She can nurse the child (a girl) for two years and then she will be executed. Her little boy is living in the jail with her. Her husband isn’t allowed to visit. I cannot imagine what this lady must be feeling but I imagine it is a living nightmare for her and her family.

In Pakistan another young lady was stoned to death by family members because she dared to marry for love instead of accepting an arranged marriage. Sometimes these arranged marriages brings the wife’s family financial benefits, which they would have missed out on when she made her own choice. She was three months pregnant when she was killed.

This week a woman in Iran – a rape victim – will be hanged unless she agrees to withdraw the assault charges on the men concerned. And, Iran has a seat on the UN Commission for the Status of Women!

Here in South Australia, a lady I know wrote a blog this week about the culture of silence within our community – including the church – that allows the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of women to continue. If a woman dares to speak up, to challenge the man who is mistreating her, more often than not she is accused of being over-emotional or pushy or a trouble-maker. After all, boys will be boys, right? She should be flattered to receive the attention. This woman wrote out of her own experience as well as the shared stories of many other women she knows. The only people who seem shocked to hear this are the more fair-minded and honourable men, who actually give a damn. Women aren’t at all surprised to hear it.

This week we also heard the findings of the investigation into the Australian Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse cases. A number of church officials will be charged – thank God – and, unsurprisingly, the Church was found to have spent its energies on suppressing information and protecting the abuser, rather than helping and compensating the victims. The only way I can explain how this has come about is that the Catholic Church has become an institutional entity that is more concerned with image and prestige than it is with its founding principles. My denomination has strict Duty of Care guidelines in place. All those involved in work with children and young people have to have a police check and have to be trained in appropriate behaviour. There are a lot of boundaries in place, which protect both the children and the workers. Why couldn’t the Catholic church do the same? At least the new Pope seems to have his head on the right way.

Why do so many men hate and fear women? Why do people abuse children? I cannot comprehend it apart from the Biblical understanding that “the human heart is a wicked thing”.  I am so sorry that I know many men and women who have been abused. I send them my love and prayers for healing and restoration, and I challenge all of us to keep our eyes and ears peeled and to be ready to speak up if we notice anything wrong.

As for Iran being on the Commission into the Status of Women, I can only hope and pray that they will learn something from their fellow members and that their medieval attitude towards women won’t sway the decisions of the Commission.

I am thankful that I know men and women who have hearts full of grace, mercy and compassion. And, thank goodness for butterflies, rainbows, kittens, puppies, horses and giraffes, flowers and the ocean and all the other things that still make this world a beautiful place, or I reckon a number of us would be tempted to leave.