This week Archbishop Justin Welby visited this project in Eastern DRC to learn more about the Anglican Church of Congo’s work to end the suffering of sexual violence.
Accompanied by Archbishop Henri Isingoma and Mark Simmonds, the UK’s Minister for Africa, Archbishop Justin learnt about the Church’s ‘Silent No More’ initiative. This initiative is supported by the UK government and implemented by the Church in partnership with Tearfund.
The ‘Silent No More’ initiative works through the local churches to tackle sexual violence, create safe spaces to support survivors, challenge impunity of perpetrators and promote positive male role models. Working with local communities, the Church has found that Bible reflection and learning from survivors have been key to shaping its response.
Archbishop Henri and Madame Mugisa Isingoma have promoted this work for many years in DRC and spoke together at the launch of the We Will Speak Out coalition at Lambeth Palace in 2011. The Church’s work in DRC remains an inspiration for this ecumenical coalition, which brings together churches and agencies from across the world to work together to tackle sexual violence.
The Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Alliance, actively participates in the We Will Speak Out coalition. Combating gender-based violence remains a central concern for the Communion, highlighted also by the activities of the International Anglican Women’s Network and International Anglican Family Network.
Revd Rachel Carnegie, Anglican Alliance Co-Director, who has visited the Church’s work in DRC, said, “The Anglican Church of Congo, working with other partners like Tearfund and HEAL Africa, has some inspiring examples of how transformation can be achieved.
“The churches and other faith groups are in a unique position to break the silence around sexual violence and support survivors to recover their health and lives so they can play a leading role in the response.”
Revd Andy Bowerman, who co-leads the Anglican Alliance, said, “Men have a key role in challenging the violence, transforming gender relations, and ending the impunity of perpetrators. The truth is that this is not just an issue for Africa or for women. It is vital that men everywhere stand up and speak out.”
A campaign initiated by Restored, an international alliance working to end violence against women, engages men in the battle and encourages them to stand up and speak out for the women in their communities.
Working closely with the Anglican Networks and Anglican Communion Office Women’s desk, the Anglican Alliance seeks to learn from the Church in Congo and other provinces which have active programmes, such as Southern Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Papua New Guinea and others. These examples and innovative approaches are then shared around the Communion to encourage further engagement by local churches to break the silence and end the trauma of sexual violence.
Revd Terrie Robinson, Networks’ Coordinator and Women’s Desk Officer, said, “The Church’s courageous response to sexual violence in Congo is a good news story set in difficult and traumatic circumstances.
“It serves as inspiration to Anglicans and others around the world as we take steps towards ending sexual violence and ensuring that survivors of violence are listened to and enabled to recover and flourish in their families and communities.”
Photo credit: Rachel Carnegie
The Mothers’ Union members are an active part of the Church’s response