Senior Minister's Message - Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea


Regardless of how you feel about it, it’s hard to argue that New York City isn’t a fascinating place, a place where you can find any kind of food, endless styles of music and theater, and “people watching” of the highest quality. It is also a place that prides itself on its “attitude” – the way its natives and regulars engage with the world and other people.

In a piece titled, “14 Ways to Spot a Real New Yorker”, Rachel Hodin offered a serious, humorous and affectionate look at some of the characteristics of that “New York Attitude”, claiming, among other things, that New Yorkers:

  • have no patience for you

  • lack the ability and/or desire to drive

  • make cars stop for them

  • are uncomfortable in nature

  • have seen just about everything on a subway train

    After reading about an incident that took place near the end of last year, there is clearly another item that needs to be added to the list:

• New Yorkers don’t take kindly to the exploitation and oppression of girls and young women...

As a way of shedding light on the prevalence of forced child marriage in the world, a young man named Coby Persin orchestrated a scene in Times Square where it appeared that a 65 year-old man was marrying a 12 year- old girl. New Yorkers were having none of it. Several stopped to ask the girl’s age, express their disgust, and even threaten to go get a police officer, while the “groom” simply responded that he had “the permission of the girl’s parents”. Finally, one New Yorker simply removed the girl and took her to the authorities.

It is estimated that millions of girls are forced or pressured into marriage before their 18th birthday each year, with as many as 75% of girls in the nation of Niger married before they reach that age. The most prevalent causes are poverty, cultural tradition, and legal gender inequality. Even in the U.S. it is estimated that as many as 3,000 girls under the age of 18 end up married annually.

But of course, marriage this early does nothing to benefit the young girls and women directly involved, nor the society as a whole, since marriage a 

those young ages brings with it the loss of significant educational and economic opportunity. In addition, it produces serious health risks to both the wife and any children they are forced or pressured to bear, as children born to mothers under the age of 18 have a much greater possibility of dying in the first year than those born to mothers over 19.

So here’s to those New Yorkers for showing that kind of “attitude”. It is the kind of attitude God has, and calls us to engage the world and other people with when it comes to the rights and wellbeing of girls and all those who are most vulnerable to exploitation and oppression in our own and every nation – those who are most vulnerable because economics, culture, religion or the law allows them to be.

Blessings, Mark