As a church we believe that all people are created in the image of Christ and at our baptism we pledge to ‘seek and serve Christ in all people,’ and to ‘strive for justice and peace,’ (Book of Common Prayer). In the United States we also believe that all people deserve equal protection under the law. These are both ideals that we struggle to achieve everyday as people and as a nation.
At the last General Convention, our church acknowledged its complicity in the mental, emotional, and physical harm done to the Indigenous Community by the Doctrine of Discovery. The Episcopal Church has repudiated that policy. We are taking steps to educate each other within the church, to join with the World Council of Churches and to begin to take steps to heal the hurts.
There are many fresh wounds in the Indigenous Community, and there is one in particular that we can address as a church and as a nation. Indian women are 2.5 times more likely than other U.S. women to be battered or raped. One-third of native women will be raped in their lifetimes. Two-fifths will experience the tragedy of domestic violence.
As Christians we cannot accept this and as citizens of our country we cannot allow a group of people to go so wholly unprotected. Currently, criminal authority on reservations is limited to federal law enforcement agencies that can only prosecute misdemeanor crimes by non-Indians against American Indians/Alaska Natives on tribal land. Sadly, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67 % of sexual abuse and related matters that occurred in Indian country from 2005-2009.
We have a chance to change this. We can stand with our brothers and sisters who live on reservations and say that this is not right. Today we have an opportunity through new provisions in the Violence Against Women Act to provide a path for justice. I encourage you to take action through the Episcopal Public Policy Network to urge the Senate to pass the Violence Against Women Act with the tribal protection provisions intact.
In our baptismal covenant we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” The safety and protection of all women from violence and abuse is not a political issue. It is a moral issue for all Americans, and for all the baptized, it is a Christian issue.
Bonnie Anderson is the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church