The Bible Brings Life and Literacy

The Read to Live program empowers victims of domestic violence in South America.

Like many women in Latin America, Amparo was a victim of domestic violence. Poor and uneducated, she lived in a rural area of Ecuador. Amparo suffered her beatings in silence, but with each act of violence, her self-esteem and dignity plummeted.

One day, a friend approached her about Read to Live, a program that helps abused, illiterate women learn to read using the Bible. At first, Amparo hesitated, but through her friend’s encouragement, she began to attend sessions at another woman’s home.

Thanks to the Bible Society of Ecuador—along with the Bible Societies in Bolivia, Chile, Panama and Peru— Amparo is gaining confidence and self-esteem. She also is deepening her relationship with God.

Read to Live, supported in part by American Bible Society, is showing Amparo—and thousands of women just like her—that they are beloved children of God.

Four years ago, Read to Live was just a nascent idea; American Bible Society convened with general secretaries from these Latin American Bible Societies at an international meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. While there, the general secretaries shared their concern about domestic violence and illiteracy in their native countries.

In the male-dominated cultures of Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Panama and Peru, domestic violence is ubiquitous. Seven out of 10 women will experience abuse in their lifetimes, research shows. Illiteracy rates, too, are high among women, particularly those who live in rural areas.

The link between illiteracy and domestic violence is clear. Research shows that illiterate women are more likely to suffer abuse because they have low self-esteem. Furthermore, they don’t have access to information that could help them.

Read to Live, which was launched in 2012 as a cluster project of the five Latin American Bible Societies, addresses this two-fold problem. Participants are taught basic literacy and then move onto the series of 10 Read to Live booklets, which contain Bible verses and reflections about gender equality, mutual respect, children’s rights and forgiveness. The booklets are used for both literacy classes and domestic violence workshops.

Last year, Shamalia Snipe, American Bible Society’s international ministries manager, visited the Bible Society of Ecuador (BSE) to witness Read to Live firsthand. Targeting the Mestizo and Quichua people, BSE created literacy materials, as well as those for domestic violence awareness and prevention.

“The materials have helped me a lot, especially with my husband,” says Bodero, testifying to the strength of the program. “He was very violent. He didn’t want me to leave the house and everything bothered him. [Because of the meetings], he has changed a lot. We talk very well together now. Before we fought a lot, but now we don’t. Now he is more patient and kind.”

Enrique Miranda also praises the program. “I have learned that I should treat my children well and, above all, my wife,” says Miranda, who has since decreased his drinking after attending the meetings. “I used to think that since I was the boss of the home, I could do whatever I wanted to do with my family, but that is not the case and should not be.”

Testimonies like these hearten Snipe, who is pleased with the progress of “Read to Live” But she understands that entire cultures and centuries of ingrained behavior will not change overnight. It will take time, patience and commitment on the part of the Bible Societies in the cluster, as well as the men and women who participate in Read to Live.

But change is happening, and for women like Amparo, it can’t occur a moment too soon.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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