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.
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.