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February 7

Lamentations 1, 12 – 16

Something to read

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.

From on high he sent fire;
it went deep into my bones;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all day long.

My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
to those whom I cannot withstand.

The Lord has rejected
all my warriors in the midst of me;
he proclaimed a time against me
to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a wine press
the virgin daughter Judah.

For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.

Something to think about

Cities and countries are feminine grammatical forms in Hebrew, so it's perhaps understandable how biblical poets came to personify cities as female.

We do the same with our cities; there's a popular modern song called 'Mother Glasgow'. But it's important to be careful with this kind of poetic license.

Theologically, Lamentations explains the disaster that befell the community in terms of the people's sin and infidelity. This, and not God's failure, brought tragedy.

Daughter Zion stands for the whole people, not just the women. Though the story is told through images of female guilt, impurity and humiliation, it would be a travesty of justice to therefore conclude that it was only, or even primarily, women who were sinful and unfaithful.

Casual or careless or self-interested interpretation of such biblical language has led, over generations, to the projection of all kinds of fears and blame onto women, often with disastrous consequences for the women.

As daughter Zion laments her suffering in this passage, she describes herself in language that today calls to mind the circumstances of abused women across the world.

She blames herself for the actions of her tormentor, one whom she trusted. She has no self-worth left. When we speak of real women and not symbolically of cities, this language is painful and illuminating.

Under the Taliban, women and girls in Afghanistan were banned from education, and leaving the house without a male family member. Today they remain marginalised and poor.

An estimated one in three women is subject to emotional, physical or sexual abuse and only 13% of women are able to read and write.

Christian Aid and its partners in Afghanistan work with women to  protect and enshrine their rights and their children's rights, not only within the community but also in Afghan law. 

Something to do

Spend some time thinking about the people you love and trust and often take for granted. Think especially about women who have been important in your life. Give thanks for them and, if you can, thank them personally.

Something to pray

Reconciling God, we give thanks
for women who have confronted warring powers, challenged violence
and offered the peace of Jesus Christ to all they met.
So we pray for a world that deals justly with its most vulnerable members,
especially those who experience gender violence, abuse and exploitation,
and for all who ask questions, protest injustice
and work for communities in which all may live in peace
God in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Today’s contributor is Kathy Galloway, Christian Aid’s Head of Team in Scotland, a practical theologian, activist and writer, and member, and former leader, of the Iona Community

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