Healing Wounds of Domestic Violence Through Bible Literacy

Engaging God’s Word in Latin America and the Caribbean

A wife and mother, Aracely admits she has had a hard life with her husband. Fueled by anger and alcohol, he frequently would physically and verbally abuse her. Concerned for her children’s safety and her future, she decided to look into a Scripture-based domestic violence program that she heard about on the radio in Panama.

“[W]ith this program I have learned women and men have the same rights and that I shouldn’t let my husband beat me, shout at me or yell at me and abuse me. … I am learning that I am loved from the Bible and I am content. The situation with my husband is improving a lot. ... Now I can tell him the Word of God and he is listening. Now he yells, but he is not beating me. I am taking this Bible that I have received for him so that he can read it for himself,” she explains.

The Outreach

The weekly domestic violence prevention radio program reaches an audience of 80,000, consisting mostly of Panama’s indigenous Ngobe people, and features program facilitators addressing the same issues they discuss in face-to-face classes. However, it is only a part of the work in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Supported by a coalition of Bible Societies, the Scripture-based domestic violence prevention programs are implemented in ten countries and offer support through materials based on biblical principles. Through the program, participants can learn how to read, which in turn allows them to experience the hope and empowerment found in Scripture.

Participants are taught to identify, protect against, report and heal from abuse. The Bible Societies modify the materials to best address the unique needs of their respective communities. Successful graduates of the literacy program are often trained to become facilitators, expanding the reach of the project.

The curriculum for children often features topics on bullying, harassment and physical and emotional mistreatment. “The Bible has helped me to believe in God, and I am very happy. It has taught me to have love, patience and do good things. I like the songs we sing, the coloring books and the puppets. With the Bible, I have come to know Christ as my Savior,” says nine-year-old Mauricio.

However, not all communities fully welcome Scripture-based domestic violence prevention and literacy programs. For example, many Ngobe have not converted to Christianity and can be suspicious of social service projects that they consider attempts at evangelization, according to American Bible Society’s Global Scripture Impact unit.

Despite these challenges, the program has impacted the lives of many facilitators and participants in Panama. “The program has been an answer of prayer for us. From the Bible we are learning values, respect, obedience, love, peace and responsibility. … This is the foundation for the children, and I can teach easier,” says instructor Diana Valdes.

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