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Reflecting on cultural traditions with religious leaders

In this video SAFAIDS explain how they work with the Bible to engage in conversations about culture and traditions
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NAKAI GODFREY NENGOMASHA: It’s very challenging because, firstly, the Levites were the priests. Priests were coming from the Levi, the tribe of Levi. But this Levi had a girlfriend, or the Bible calls it the concubine, which becomes a complicated issue. And the whole story then, when we do contextual Bible study, we then ask the question like– when these men were given the two women, the concubine and the daughter, to do whatever they want to do with them. Scriptures say they abuse them all night, and they handed them over in the morning. So the question will be, what kind of sexuality do we see in there?
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Most religious leaders will think that these were gay men, but you realise that they were not. If they were gay men, they were not going to abuse these women all night. So that’s how we then introduce different sexualities– that there is actually a gay– someone who is attracted to people of opposite sex, someone are attracted to people of same sex, some are attracted to both same sex. And you can then begin to bring this– but you are taking it from scripture and getting it out there, so they will somehow listen to that, because they realise, oh, all this time we thought that it was just gay men, but you know, it’s not. It’s actually maybe someone who is bi.
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So you are already introducing some of the concept that some religious leaders do not interact with at all, you know. So this is difficult for them, and then you then roll into a big question like, why do people have sex? Then they can begin to share– mostly, I will tell you that the first three answers there will be, procreation is one of the answers. But then as you dig deeper, you realise that people have sex for different reasons. Some for revenge. Some for just want for pleasure. Some for different reasons. Some to get a job. Some– so as you do that, you are beginning to debunk [INAUDIBLE]. And remember, you’re talking to religious leaders.
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And for them, sex is supposed to be within a marriage setup, so you are beginning to challenge that there are the people that might do it, and they are outside the marriage institution. Is there abuse out there? Yes, you begin to introduce issue of abuse through there. So, it will look like you are not teaching them, but you’re engaging them. So in the process as you are engaging them, they are giving their exchange, they are also airing their fears and anxieties– because they do have fears and anxieties. Especially on issues of GBV and sexuality, especially sexuality. They have that.
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So you begin to explore, create the environment, not rush them, and make sure that you have ample time to discuss about this as you roll it out and then put it out there. And trust the process, and begin to engage. When we use this, we have to be not in a one-day kind of session. We have to be in a second, third day kind of session, three day to five day kind of trainings.
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So that if they still have questions and answers, the facilitators will be available to reflect, answer the questions, give them some homework to do, some material to read, something– even a video to watch, so that you continue having constant information about what you are what you’re engaging on.

You have investigated how culture and tradition are addressed in the Sexuality, Gender and Faith toolkit. In this video Godfrey Nakai from SAFAIDS gives an example of how stories from the Bible are utilized to engage in conversations about culture and traditions and these can be revisited and changed to realize health and wellbeing.

TRIGGER WARNING: the content in the video discusses sexual violence and may be triggering to some learners. Feel free to skip this video step if this may affect you.

In Week 2, we included some discussion about culture and tradition already, and how people often consider them unchangeable even though they in fact do change quite often. In the discussion steps on the role of culture and tradition in interventions you also encountered how the toolkit of Sonke Gender Justice views culture and tradition.

Do you recognize this tension between culture and tradition as static versus dynamic in your own environment? How do you see yourself and others deal with this?

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Religion and Sexual Wellbeing: Pleasure, Piety, and Reproductive Rights

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