16 March 2023

As the Battle Cry is heard across the world, Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World President of Women's Ministries) considers our biblical calling to the ways of justice through the reflections on the Book of Esther. This devotional was shared by Commissioner Rosalie during a time of prayer and worship led by the international Women's Ministries section, as International Headquarters observed International Women's Day and launched the Battle Cry:

The Book of Esther is well-known for its strong themes of justice, provision and of goodness overcoming evil… All without mention a single mention of God! However, that does not mean that God is not present in the story. By never speaking of God, the Book of Esther urges us to look more closely and think more deeply about the divine providence of God.

As we trace the lines of Esther’s story for glimpses of God, we rely on the knowledge from our own lives and encounters with the Almighty to fill in the blanks. The Book of Esther shows us that God is at work in everything to save and deliver his people, even in the darkest moments of history. Even when we don’t see it – God is working. Even in our mess and in the immorality of the world – God is working. Even in threat and tragedy – God is working.

As World President of Women’s Ministries, I have had to reckon with the threats faced by so many women and girls in our world. There is so much that is overwhelming in the mess of our world. And it is often women and girls in many parts of our world who bear the hidden burden of a lot of these messes, the silenced victims of threat, tragedy and immorality.

  • One woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.
  • More than 1 in 4 women have been subjected to intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime.
  • Up to 10 million more girls are at risk of becoming child brides by 2030, and as many as 2 million additional cases of FGM are projected by the same date.

Yet, even in the great darkness of these United Nations statistics from the past two years, we do believe God is working. We may not see him in the figures or the reports, but we will certainly see him in the stories of those who overcome and support or stand by those in need. We see God in the lives of those who advocate for equity and justice – even in our imperfections and complications. We see God in The Salvation Army’s rejection of any view that subordinates women to men, or men to women.

Three years ago, Women’s Ministries underwent some vital ‘reimagining’, to sharpen our focus and purpose. A new vision statement has become an anchor for those involved in Women’s Ministries around the Salvation Army world. Today, I highlight the following excerpt: ‘We envision women who are engaged in social justice and action to positively impact the world.’ We are called to go into all the world and express the good news of Jesus Christ, both in word and deed. My desire is that all who have an investment in Women’s Ministries – as participants, leaders or as champions of Salvation Army women – would be informed on social justice matters and prepared to speak out with boldness, wisdom and grace.

In her final days, Catherine Booth is quoted as saying, ‘The waters are rising, but so am I. I’m not going under, but over.’ The ‘waters’ for Catherine was her increasingly aggressive illness, but within the context of social injustices faced by women, these rising waters are systemic oppression and lack of equity. But the rising waters are not the end of the story – we see the possibility for women to rise, too, and we’re going over! This quote has become a battle cry for Women’s Ministries – rallying us together in the face of adversity, reminding us of the redemptive end, even if it is yet unseen.

Women's Ministries are sounding a Battle Cry to all engaged in work with women across our world. As The Salvation Army continues its global efforts to achieve gender equity, international Women’s Ministries has identified and prioritised three focuses for individuals and groups involved in Women’s Ministries across the world to adopt and focus on. We want to see:

  • Improved access to healthcare and a better understanding of women’s health
  • Increased education and development opportunities for women and girls, with fair compensation for their skills and labour
  • The elimination of violence against women and girls.

I must reengage those of you who feel this is perhaps not your issue! There is one line in the book of Esther that tends to stand out from the rest: 'for such a time as this.' It has been the focus of many sermons and conferences… and maybe it is the first thing that comes to mind when you consider the Book of Esther. But it was not said by Esther! It was spoken over Esther by Mordecai. Who can tell the courage that this word from Mordecai gave Esther? How his word inspired, transformed and empowered Esther to take on evil – with a new sense of purpose, of calling and of justice! How many more people over the years have been encouraged and regained focus thanks to his words. Mordecai’s active presence in Esther’s life can be a role model for allyship in our own dealings with injustice. It demonstrates God has created this world diversely, with space for Esthers and Mordecais to all seek justice and goodness and righteousness, together!

We’re all called to trust in God’s providence even when we can’t see it working or don’t understand what’s happening. The message we receive from the story of Esther and Mordecai calls us to deeper levels of faith! This deeper level of faith will bring us to a place where we choose to believe that no matter how hard the battle is, God is committed to redeeming his good world and overcoming evil.

Through your own reflections on the Book of Esther, I ask you to remember the women and girls who are in the depths of this battle. While women and girls weep, as they do now, we will fight! While women and girls struggle to make their voices heard, we will fight. While women and girls are undermined and undervalued, we will fight. So long as there is need for women and girls to rise up against the forces of oppression, we will continue to raise our battle cry: the waters are rising, but so are we. We are not going under, but over!

Tags: WM News, WM Resources, Women's Ministries