Domestic Abuse. Not the kind of thing anyone really likes to think about, but when you meet someone who is in an abusive relationship, you want to be ready to offer support and get in touch with resources. I pastored churches for nearly eight years, and I knew that I was not sufficiently trained or equipped to address the issue. I knew that what I needed to do was listen, affirm, and contact the right people.

Fortunately, Houston has a lot of the “right people.” Today I was asked to be on a panel for “Partnering in Faith: A Multi-Faith Summit on Domestic Abuse.” The Summit was sponsored by AVDA (Aid for Victims of Domestic Abuse), and there were at least 100 people at the Delpelchin Center on Memorial Drive for the four-hour summit.

The mission of AVDA is “to end family violence by advocating for the safety and self-determination of victims, promoting accountability for abusers and fostering a community response to abuse.” The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, a respected expert in working across religious and cultural traditions to end sexual and domestic violence. I read her work in seminary, so it was a pleasure to be able to meet her.

It was wonderful to see so many people, whether they were faith leaders, laypeople, or advocates, in the same room. We weren’t able to talk a great deal or solve the problems of the world, but that wasn’t necessarily the intent of four hours. I think the intent was to get people from faith communities in the same room with people knowledgeable about domestic violence so that we (faith leaders) didn’t feel so overwhelmed when we start talking about domestic violence in our education classes or in our worship space. Because, once faith leaders do so, once faith leaders basically say, “I recognize domestic violence as an issue and I am doing so in a public way,” they will start hearing peoples’ stories. I am grateful to know that I don’t have to have all the answers, and to know that Houston has a strong network of organizations that provide assistance.

Interfaith Relations is not suddenly going to become a domestic violence resource provider; however, we can do something which we are designed to do: be a hub, a network, a conduit for information that all religious groups should know about.

I valued the Summit for many reasons. I valued meeting people from across religious traditions. I valued meeting people concerned about the welfare of our community. And I valued it because I now know that I don’t have to be an expert in responding to domestic violence. I know can turn to AVDA and other organizations like AVDA.

For more information on AVDA, visit http://avda-tx.org