Over 90 women from across the United Diocese, including the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Deputy Lieutenant of County Londonderry, attended the 16 Days Breakfast hosted by Diocesan President, Ms Jacqui Armstrong, and organised by the coordinator of MU’s Faith and Policy Unit, Joan Stockitt. Joan led the 16 Days worship liturgy and intercessions. During the event hundreds of gifts brought by MU members were blessed by Diocesan Chaplain Katie Mc Ateer and presented to two local refuge centres.
The annual pre-Christmas event combines worship and activism and the importance of the organisation’s campaigning was put into perspective by Marie Browne of Foyle Women’s Aid. Ms Browne told the MU members that on average there was one incident of domestic abuse every 17 minutes in Northern Ireland, in fact, she added, Northern Ireland had the highest incidence of domestic violence in the UK. Ms Browne also introduced everyone to a new project ‘ Dress for Success’ backed by Marks and Spencer and Dunnes Stores, which aims to provide suitable interview and work clothes for any women in need. Mary McKenna, of the Donegal Womens’ Domestic Violence Service, shared a moving and topical poem which recounted how a child in a home which experienced domestic violence sought just one present for Christmas – a good father.
The President urged women from Northern Ireland to challenge canvassers seeking support in December’s General Election to explain what they were doing to end domestic violence and introduce the Coercive Control Bill. Ms Armstrong also urged support for the ‘Thursdays in Black’ initiative, which originated with the World Council of Churches and seeks to highlight an end to gender-based violence around the globe.
A “warm Derry and Raphoe welcome” was extended by the President to the guest speaker, Mrs Heather Forster, a senior social worker, whose husband Bishop Andrew Forster has just been enthroned in Derry and Raphoe. Mrs Forster stated during her address that we lived in a messed-up world – a world of injustice and broken hearts – but that we have a God who comes into the mess, sees the brokenness and vulnerability of every individual and walks alongside us, treating us with respect.
‘Thursdays in Black’ badges were made available to each member with a leaflet of commendation from All-Ireland President June Butler, discussing her personal reasons for wearing black each Thursday.
Rev Katie Mc Ateer led the closing act of worship and the breakfast ended with everyone sharing a global moment.