February 6 marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The World Health Organization estimates more than 200 million women and girls across the globe have been subjected to this violent practice which forcibly cuts or mutilates a woman’s sexual organs as a so-called “rite of passage.” Not only is FGM a gross violation of the human rights and dignity of these girls, most of whom either do not consent to it or are not old enough to understand what’s being done to them, but it’s also incredibly dangerous.
Diverse people groups practice FGM, including, unfortunately, a few remote tribes who identify as Christian. However, far more Christians have fought the practice than committed it, including missionaries, Christian aid organizations, and many local African Christian communities. These Christians are motivated by a biblical view of humanity, that includes the inherent dignity of women and children. Nevertheless, a common accusation is that Christianity is an oppressively patriarchal religion that either subjugates women or, at least, devalues them. This accusation is almost exclusively Western and modern. The first Christians were actually criticized for teaching that women were equal in value to men, and accused of being “incestuous” for referring to fellow believers as “brothers and sisters.”