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Aid program taking religion out of Solomon Is -

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Aid program taking religion out of Solomon Islands violence
Tom Nightingale reported this story on Monday, October 15, 2012 12:30:00

ELEANOR HALL: World Vision says the Solomon Islands has the highest recorded rate of domestic violence in the world.

Now it's expanding an unusual program that trials show has been remarkably successful in addressing the problem.

Local leaders say many men are using passages from the Bible to justify beating women.

As Tom Nightingale reports, this program uses the Bible in an effort to reduce the violence.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Honiara Pastor Jack Maega says the effects of local domestic violence are shocking.

JACK MAEGA: There was a man, how we say, a violent man, a father of maybe seven children, every weekend he would go out drinking and bash up his family. And that happens every weekend.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: That man recently went through a program to study some biblical passages that are sometimes used to justify violence.

Pastor Jack Maega says that man is one of the success stories.

JACK MAEGA: I said, what has it done for you, and he said, these are my first two weeks of peace in my family. I don't go out to the pubs, even though my friends come and invite me, but I say no, enough is enough and I am enjoying my life with family. And he started coming to teach from that time to now.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: World Vision has run the program in Africa for years. The charity's Australian head, Tim Costello, says two in three women in the Solomon Islands are victims of physical or sexual violence from a partner.

He says it's the highest recorded rate in the world.

TIM COSTELLO: There are parts of world where basically we may not be recording or asking that question, but this poverty in paradise, as it's sometimes described, has gender based violence that is really a dark shadow.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Tim Costello says it's partly explained by the traditional dominance of men, and partly by biblical passages that are misinterpreted.

TIM COSTELLO: Many of them here know the submission text, where Paul appears to say wives submit to your husbands.

We completely unpick submission and the woman being not created by God and therefore not equal. There is an 'ah-ha moment', a penny drops.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: For the past six months, the program has been trialled in five more troubled areas of Honiara, including Pastor Jack Maega's home of Burns Creek.

He says he's been trying to stop violence for years and he says this program works in ways others have not.

JACK MAEGA: When you say, this is what the Bible says, they will listen, yes.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Why do you think they don't listen to other things?

JACK MAEGA: People came in from secular countries to Solomon Islands, which is a relatively Christian country, and tried to do, you know, elimination of violence, and it's a bit foreign, like a bit strange. So it's a bit hard to swallow, yes.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The program costs $600,000 over three years, and World Vision says it's partly funded by the Australian Federal Police, who are in the country as part of a peacekeeping mission.

World Vision will measure success by comparing current and future levels of domestic violence.

Pastor Jack Maega says he hopes things are starting to change.

JACK MAEGA: I believe that the message is starting to go but we have a long way to go, yes.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Pastor Jack Maega from Honiara, ending Tom Nightingale's report.