Tears were shed at St Columb’s Cathedral, on Saturday afternoon, as members and friends of Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union took part in a Prayer Vigil, during which they heard harrowing accounts of the extent and impact of human trafficking and domestic violence.
The event was part of Mothers’ Union’s ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’ initiative. Among those who attended was the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Maolíosa McHugh.
M.U. is one of more than 130 groups across Ireland involved in the ’16 Days’ initiative, which seeks to end violence against women locally, nationally and internationally. Saturday’s event was the third year in a row that local women had taken part in the vigil. This year a video was shown highlighting the extent of gender-based violence
Worship was led by Mothers’ Union’s Diocesan Chaplain, Rev Harold Given, the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, Rev Naomi Quinn and Rev Liz Fitzgerald, and May Boyd provided accompaniment during the hymn-singing.
Speakers this year included Helen Cupples from A21, who addressed the scourge of human trafficking in Northern Ireland, and Roisin Hamill, Childcare Co-ordinator of Foyle Women’s Aid, who outlined the impact of domestic violence in the North West.
Branch leader, Joan Stockitt, led intercessions on behalf of those who live in fear of violence, those who perpetrate abuse and regimes that endorse violence against women. Readings were delivered by Branch Leaders Kathleen Donaghy and Ellen Darragh. As light was ‘shone’ on the issue of gender-based violence, symbolic candles were lit by Roberta Merrick and Linda Hughes.
There were serene musical interludes provided by harpist, Gráinne McGregor, during which those present were encouraged to visit five different prayers stations around the Cathedral. These were created by local MU branches and invited people to ‘Shine a Light’ on gender-based violence (Ardstraw, Baronscourt and Badoney MU); ‘Break the Silence’ (Inver MU); and ‘Lift the Shame and Shift the Blame (Christ Church, Culmore, Muff and St Peter’s MU). Clondevaddock MU created a prayer tree for the event while Templemore MU designed a station for reflecting on Friendships and Relationships.
The Diocesan President of MU, Mary Good, led an emotional reflection during which people were invited to “hear the cries of girls and women – some lould, many muffled – enduring violence in every area of our global community”.
This year – as in the previous two years – a collection of clothes, toys and toiletries had been taken up for women and children, and on Saturday these were donated to representatives of Foyle Women’s Aid and the Donegal Domestic Violence Service.