Throughout the world, divorce rates continue to increase at alarming proportions, ravaging homes and alienating offspring, despite faith-based interventions or secular counseling.
For instance, case studies conducted in the US at the turn of the millennium’s first decade showed that almost 50 percent of marriages ended in divorce. The UK Government Statistics Office website reported around 140 000 couples split; while in neighbouring South Africa nearly two out of three marriages ended in divorce.
According to Tlogatloga Junior Secondary School (JSS) Guidance Teacher, Bakadzi Mbulawa, Botswana, with an estimated population of around 2 million is no exception. Divorce statistics registered with the Lobatse High Court indicate almost a four-fold increase from 394 divorces in 1994 to 1172 in 2010, despite the remarkable growth in marriage guidance and counseling services.
Talking to Sunday Standard in Gaborone this week, Mbulawa, who will be graduating with a Masters in Counseling & Human Services this October, said based on case studies, married couples in Botswana face daunting challenges to build and sustain marriages, such as the struggle to strike a balance between home, work and non-work engagements in addition to enormous financial burdens. Cases of chronically void and conflict-ridden marital relationships exacerbated by spouse abuse often identified divorce as the last best hope for affected couples.
“In Botswana, studies conducted between 1989 and 2009 confirm the escalating divorce rates,” said Mbulawa. “Escalating divorce rates among Christians have become a societal eyesore, never a common occurrence in this religious sector before. This is contrary to the Christian dogma viewing marriage as holy matrimony which none should break, ‘till death do us part’.”
The scriptures consider Christian matrimony as life’s most precious relationship, forming a parallel between Jesus Christ and the Church.
“A snap survey carried out among Pentecostal Churches show that in the Assemblies of God, out of 52 marriages sanctified between 2000 and 2010, 20 ended in divorce. The Apostolic Faith Mission recorded four divorces out 70 marriages between 2004 and 2010; and Pentecostal Holiness two out 17, from 2002 to 2010. During the period under review, the Family of God was the only exception, preserving all the 15 marriages consecrated. Despite research conducted about divorce and the broad literature on divorce, very little is actually known about the causes of divorce in Pentecostal Churches in Botswana, in the wake of putting up fundamental strategies intended to scale down the high rates. The devastating outcomes of divorce do not only affect the parties in the torn relationship but also the children involved, friends, general well-being of both families and society as a whole.”
Findings of the case study further indicated high infidelity rates, lack of teaching and communication, in-laws interference and financial problems were paramount in divorce rates involving the clergy and laity. Respondents stated psychological effects like fear, confusion, rejection and loneliness, to name a few challenged couples. Social and interpersonal contagion coupled with little or no communication with former spouse including in-laws, were contributory factors. The loss of assets or tangible property formed a baseline in some divorces.
However, she stated, pastors and focused groups have a role to play in minimizing divorce through prayer, encouragement and community acceptance. Also crucial was avoiding getting married for material possessions and sustained pre and post marital counseling.
With reference to Christian marriages, inter-faith or marriages between believers and atheists should be discouraged. In the same vein, intending inter-denominational couples should undergo intensive counseling to avoid religious incompatibility.