A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
The world is composed of many cultures, each containing colorful and delightful aspects. But sometimes facets of a culture have evolved from fear or even a misunderstanding of how the world or the human body works. These practices can lead to fear and suffering.
Both Jesus and his apostles did all they could to eliminate fear and suffering in the people they met, and the spiritual force that empowered their healing work liberated individuals from prejudice and superstitious beliefs.
That power is still present, making itself felt as customs once thought normal, even routine, come into question. One of these customs is the practice of such rites as female circumcision. While this is a topic many won't even want to think about, more than 3 million girls between 5 and 8 years old undergo this grim practice each year. Every one of them deserves your prayers, prayers that can free them from harm.
Although efforts have been made to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM), or circumcision, for more than 25 years, it is still practiced in some 28 African and several Middle Eastern and Asian nations. Roughly 130 million girls and women are already affected.
Often performed under unsanitary conditions and without an anesthetic, FGM can cause serious aftereffects and even fatalities. The act isn't driven by religion – although Islam is often accused of encouraging it – but by cultural taboos that affect a woman's prospects for marriage and her role in the community. A woman who is not circumcised is considered a social outcast, and her prospects for marriage are poor. Besides helping to preserve the girl's virginity and to contribute to her cleanliness and beauty, FGM is supposed to reduce her sexual desire and thus keep her faithful to her husband.
One hopeful sign was reported in a recent Monitor article on a rescue center in Kenya where girls can take part in an alternative rite of passage to adulthood. The article also noted the challenges to progress: "Changing an entire culture ... can be a difficult process even in a fairly well-off and well-educated country like Kenya. The key ingredient, activists say, is the consent of the people who find meaning from that culture."