German Adventist Hospital Opens Center to Treat FGM Victims
Berlin, Germany—Partnering with a foundation established by a former supermodel, a Seventh-day Adventist hospital in Berlin opened a new center in September 2013 to help restore victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), a cultural ritual practiced in parts of Africa and Asia.
The Krankenhaus Waldfriede (Berlin Hospital) opened the Desert Flower Center in cooperation with the Desert Flower Foundation, based in Vienna, Austria. The foundation was launched in 2002 by Somali model Waris Dirie. Dirie, herself a victim of FGM at the age of five, is an international activist and established the foundation to raise awareness of the ritual.
“How many little girls are victims of such suffering,” Dirie said at the ceremony. “Even with all these tears, I’m truly happy to sit here. When I see this sign ‘Desert Flower Center,’ I do believe in truth.”
FGM is practiced in nearly 30 countries in Africa and Asia. Young girls are subjected to the removal or slicing of some of their sexual organs as a coming-of-age cultural tradition. FGM is sometimes viewed as a status symbol, and some practitioners say it controls sexuality and promotes chastity. Its effects often include infection, chronic pain, and infertility. The United Nations banned the practice in 2012. The World Health Organization estimates that 140 million women are victims.
The Desert Flower Center at Berlin Adventist Hospital is expected to serve between 50 and 100 women each year. Dirie, 48, said her foundation is planning to establish other Desert Flower Centers worldwide, especially in Africa.
Another speaker at the event was Pierre Foldès, the French physician who partnered with Dr. Jean-Antoine Robein to invent a surgical technique to repair damage caused by FGM. To date, he has operated on 4,000 women.
Gabriele Halder, a gynecologist, said more awareness about FGM is needed even in countries where it is not practiced. Women from such cultures are still treated with traditions of their homeland while living in Western countries. “Women, after the death of their husbands, are often mutilated again so they can remarry,” Halder said. “This needs to be stopped here in Europe too.” Denise Hochstrasser, Women’s Ministries director for the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, based in Berne, Switzerland, said the new center will help restore victims to how God created them.“When women have lost parts of their body through misunderstanding, tradition, incomprehensible practices, crime and abuse in the past, then, if we can, it is our duty to give them back whatever we can so they can live a normal life, as God has meant it to be from the beginning,” Hochstrasser said.
“We are happy that an Adventist hospital has taken this step to help on a topic that in so many countries remains silent,” she said. “We have to speak up for these women; we have to inform wherever we can.”
[Corrado Cozzi/ANN staff]
Mob Burns Adventist Church Building
Cairo, Egypt—The burning of a Seventh-day Adventist Church in the city of Assiut during rioting on August 14 was not part of a wider, organized political movement, local church officials said.
The Assiut Seventh-day Adventist Church, located approximately 220 miles south of Cairo, was attacked by a mob and heavily damaged after it was set on fire. The pastor and his wife hid in their upstairs apartment and were not found by the attackers. The pastor and his wife were rescued from the burning building by Muslim neighbors. “This was a small group of people bent on doing harm. This event was not representative of Egypt or the people of Egypt,” said Llewellyn R. Edwards, president of the Adventist Church’s Egypt-Sudan Field, based in Heliopolis. He continued, “As Adventists, we want our relationships to be strong with Egyptians of all faiths in the country.”
Muslim neighbors rescuing the Adventist couple showed “the true picture of most people in Egypt,” Edwards said.
Several other Christian churches were also attacked in Assiut as well as the shop of the Egypt Bible Society. According to Edwards, the government has announced it will pay for the rebuilding of all churches destroyed during rioting in several cities.
The Adventist Church operates two schools in Egypt—Nile Union Academy northeast of Cairo, and Zeitoun Adventist School. Both institutions have positive relationships with their communities.