Leaders meet in London to speak on mobilising faith communities to end sexual violence in conflict

10 February 2015

The two-day consultation has been organised by the We Will Speak Out coalition to discuss the role of faith communities in ending sexual violence in conflict.  The Anglican Alliance is a founding member of the We Will Speak Out coalition and delegates include a number of Anglicans from regions across the Anglican Communion.  The event builds on the previous Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict that took place in June 2014, with remarkable outcomes.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke at the opening session.  Addressing the audience from some 20 countries, the Archbishop said: “Sexual violence has always been a feature of conflict. But it is becoming more and more systematic, more and more deliberate, and the level of impunity has increased. We have to challenge conflict itself – the chaos of war that makes impunity seem acceptable. Perpetrators of rape need to know they will never escape the consequences of what they have done. We must end the silence and the stigmatisation of survivors”.

William Hague MP, formerly foreign secretary renewed the UK’s commitment to the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), and urged faith leaders to play their part in challenging attitudes towards sexual violence in conflict around the world. He said:

“We face the widespread view that you simply cannot do anything about sexual violence in conflict. But this is orchestrated, man-made injustice. It is a problem created by men, that can be solved by men and women acting together. Overcoming pessimism, changing behaviour, raising awareness, and transforming attitudes towards women – these things are all central to our mission, and you have a vital role to play. ”

PSVI Co-Founder & UN envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt spoke of the testimony of survivors of rape she met in northern Iraq, and set out five ways leaders of all faiths can fight against those who use rape as a weapon of war.  She said: “Our most powerful assets are not our armies but our values.”

Angelina Jolie-Pitt urged faith leaders to fight back against anyone seeking to use religion to justify violence, saying: “You are uniquely placed to confront those who seek to use religion to justify or incite sexual violence, whether they are terrorist groups, or extreme nationalists, or parties to one side of a civil conflict. You can help fight back against the pernicious use of supposed religious doctrine to denigrate or dehumanize anyone on the grounds of their religion, ethnicity, or any other identity.”

She continued: “The tragedy is that this issue [sexual violence in conflict] hardly features in discussions about our strategy towards defeating extremism, ending the conflict in Syria, and stabilizing Iraq. Yet it is vital to our success.”

From these introductions participants began a series of themed conversations each of which concluded with substantive recommendations to faith leaders, to governments and to the international development sector.

Archbishop Justin Welby FCO PSVIDuring day one they covered issues around defending the values of faith and human rights, tackling impunity and promoting justice and accountability, and supporting survivors. The format enabled two presenters to share their experiences, perspectives and lessons learnt before a facilitated round table conversation drew out the key themes.

The day concluded with a short time of prayer and a reception hosted by Baroness Hodgson. This included a short address from The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nicols, in which he reinforced the inhumanity of sexual violence as an organised and systematic weapon during violent conflict but also reminded us of the deeply spiritual nature of human sexuality as understood by the Catholic church.

During the second day participants will continue themed discussions around engaging men and boys, and peace building and the peace process. The consultation will conclude with identifying the next steps for faith leaders and governments together and will finish with the adoption of a formal declaration.

On Wednesday 11th February at 12pm UK time the Anglican Alliance will host a one hour webinar discussion bringing in participants from all over the world to discuss mobilising faith communities to end sexual and gender based violence.

You can register for the discussion at http://view6.workcast.net/register?pak=4190568644793728.

Presenters include:

Archbishop Henri Isingoma from the Anglican Church in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Mathilde Nkwirikiye from the Mothers’ Union in Burundi

Mara Luz from the Episcopal Church in Brazil

Therese Mama Mapenzi, a partner of CAFOD in DRC

Revd Terrie Robinson, Director for Women in Church and Society at the Anglican Communion Office

Paulo Ueti, Theologian and Anglican Alliance Facilitator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the pictures

Top: The group of delegates with William Hague MP and Angelina Jolie-Pitt at the FCO in London.
Bottom: Archbishop Justin Welby speaking at the event.