There’s a long-running debate in the mission field about when to embrace local customs and when to resist them. How do we draw the line between mere cultural differences and a serious ethical rift?
Sometimes, though, we come across a tradition so antithetical to Christ’s love that there is no gray area. One such practice is female genital mutilation. The ritual – which is often done in preparation for an early marriage – is dangerous, painful and unnecessary, it permanently damages a woman’s body, and it increases the maternal and infant mortality rate. It is also now illegal in Kenya.
At present, Cross Catholic Outreach is working with the sisters of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary in Kenya to provide a safe place for girls in danger of female genital mutilation and early forced marriages. That place is the Marie Adelaide Girls Rescue Center.
Here’s what the center’s director, Grace Nakaya, has to say about the work:
I have a passion for serving children, especially girls. I was a rescued girl, like them. When I was in primary school, my father tried to marry me off. Missionaries saved me. I know what it means to be given into marriage without your intention…
I want to teach youth and young women. I want to teach them about the love of God. When the girls come here, they were traumatized. As a result, they have low self-esteem. Here they have a home. Here they have hope. Here they have found the love of Christ. They are now complete. They know that female genital mutilation does not make them a woman. They now know that God has plans for their lives.
We are their family. The center helps the girls academically. The accommodations are great. I have seen lives changed.