Next steps for faith communities after Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

29 July 2014

Anglicans took part in a range of platforms at the Global Summit, which took place from 10-13 June 2014, to highlight the role that faith groups have in preventing sexual violence in conflict. The Anglican Alliance, as part of the We Will Speak Out Coalition, was involved in delivering three events.

The Anglican Archbishops of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda and the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke at panel discussions. A team of Anglicans from different parts of the Communion, including South Asia, West Africa, Europe and from Episcopal Relief & Development in the USA, also participated in the summit activities alongside colleagues from the Anglican Communion Office. In other parts of the world Anglicans contributed to events in their own countries.

The Global Summit brought together government ministers from over 140 countries and representatives from faith groups, civil society, grassroots organisations, the judiciary, militaries and international organisations, to agree practical actions to help put an end to the use of sexual violence in conflict.

Anglican churches and agencies, with Christians and other faith communities, have long been engaged in responding to sexual violence in their communities and providing care and support to survivors. The Anglican Alliance and Anglican Communion are members of We Will Speak Out coalition, which is a global coalition that brings together faith-based NGOs, churches and organisations who have committed to end sexual violence in communities around the world.

Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Director of the Anglican Alliance, said, “It was incredibly encouraging to see the wide recognition given to the contribution of faith communities to ending the suffering of sexual violence. The four Archbishops spoke powerfully on the constructive role of the churches, drawing on their own experiences. Our task now is to build on the momentum and commitment of the Summit and to continue to share skills and encouragement across our churches that we can and will make a difference in speaking out and acting together.”

The positive contribution of faith communities on preventing and responding to sexual violence was marked by the Co-Chairs of the Global Summit, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie.  In the picture below William Hague meets Archbishop Rwaje Onesphore and Revd Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance in the Central African Republic.

William HagueIn his closing speech, William Hague said, “We noted that good laws and international agreements in themselves are not enough if attitudes don’t change. In this respect, faith groups have a key role to play, including in their role providing care, treatment and support for survivors.  Through their networks, they often have access and influence with local communities that no other actor has. As such, they are uniquely placed to change hearts and minds, and challenge cultural and social norms, including notions of masculine identity as it affects sexual violence”.

He continued, “The Summit recognised the need to engage faith-based organisations as active partners in the fight against sexual violence, both in helping to formulate strategy and in providing front-line support to survivors”.  You can learn more about the Summit from the Chair’s summary.

Four key areas for change were addressed by the Summit, and the new International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict was launched.  The four key areas were:

  1. Improve accountability at the national and international level, including through better documentation, investigations and prosecutions at the national and international level, and better legislation implementing international obligations and standards
  2. Provide greater support and protection to survivors of sexual violence, including children and men and boys. Governments need to respond rapidly to the needs of survivors with holistic and integrated services, and improve partnership with donors and local organisations working at the grassroots, who are often the first to respond to survivors;
  3. Ensure sexual and gender-based violence responses and the promotion of gender equality are fully integrated in all peace and security efforts, including security and justice sector reform and military and police training; and
  4. Improve international strategic co-operation.

Reflecting on the summit, Revd Terrie Robinson, Director for Women in Church and Society at the Anglican Communion Office, said:

“The factors that lead to sexual violence in some war zones are complex and not yet fully understood, but one sure thing is that sexual violence against children, women and men causes immeasurable, often hidden suffering and adds to trauma and fear in times of conflict and insecurity. Hopefully the Summit will have opened up the way for Anglicans and the broader We Will Speak Out coalition to engage in more and deeper partnerships in the multi-stranded work that’s needed and in the bolder actions we must take to end and prevent sexual violence and respond to the different needs of its survivors.”

For more information in this area see the ‘Anglicans and the 16 Days’ resource

Here is more on how Anglicans were involved both in London and around the world.

Multi-faith panel discussion on ‘The role of faith leaders in preventing and responding to sexual violence’

You can watch this event online by visiting and searching for ‘We Will Speak Out’

Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Archbishop of Rwanda, spoke at a multi-faith panel discussion, pictured above, at the Global Summit on the role that faith leaders have in speaking out about sexual violence, as well as addressing the root causes that contribute to it and providing care and support to survivors, including countering the stigmatisation of survivors. The discussion brought together representatives from different churches, the Muslim and Jewish communities and UNAIDS and the UK government.

Archbishop Rwaje spoke on the work of the Church in Rwanda as well as across Africa.  “We have to create a safe space where victims, mainly women, are free to speak openly and find healing.  Faith communities need to deal with the symptoms of sexual violence but also address the root causes.”

In answer to a question on the mindset of church leaders in addressing conflict and sexual violence, Archbishop Rwaje said, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers!’  This is our mandate, which has been entrusted to the Church.”

Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu said, “We must take the language of shame and transform it – all are made in the image of God. We must say to survivors, ‘Shame does not belong to you.’”

The panel discussion opened with a video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in which he spoke of grassroots initiatives he had visited in DRC and the positive contribution of faith communities and their leaders in ending sexual violence:

“Through wonderful organisations like HEAL Africa they treat survivors’ physical injuries. And then individual clergy, trained and equipped, with their wives, begin to deal with the issues… They enable survivors to re-enter society. They show them that they are of unique importance as people; not merely the objects of other people’s lust, rage and disempowerment…the churches are deeply involved in the restoration of relationships – particularly the relationships, the proper relationships between men and women, in which there is equal valuing. In other words, with the right collaboration on the ground, this is an issue where we can, in this world, make a significant difference”.

See more on this event and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s video message

Churches and partner agencies panel discussion on ‘The holistic role of faith communities working to end sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’

The Archbishop of Congo, Henri Isingoma, joined an ecumenical panel at the Global Summit to discuss the holistic role of faith communities in preventing and responding to sexual violence in the DRC.  In the picture on the right he addresses the audience.

The DRC has experienced some of the worst rates of sexual violence which have increased during its many years of conflict.  The panel speakers, all from the DRC, drew on their experience of working with churches and church-based organisations to address the multiple challenges of sexual violence in their country.

Archbishop Henri Isingoma, together with his wife Mugisa Isingoma, has led the Anglican Church in Congo in reaching out to survivors, building the church as a safe space for women and addressing the root causes of sexual violence by transforming harmful attitudes on masculinity and unequal relationships between men and women.

Archbishop Henri said, “We need to move people from ignorance to having positive attitudes.  As we are working with Tearfund, we are bringing men, women, survivors together to tell their stories.  We are teaching positive masculinity.  When men heard about rape they would rape in revenge, but after our teaching this first response is undermined.”

Another panellist Thérèse Mapenzi, from CAFOD’s partner The Justice and Peace Commission in DRC, also pictured above, spoke about the need to address impunity and noted the existence of laws against sexual violence in DRC, but outlined the obstacles in implementing them.  She said, “We have laws in the DRC but they are not always enforced or respected.”

Faith leaders are encouraging men and boys to become defenders of these laws and translate them into local languages for local teaching. Faith leaders are central in sharing this messaging and ensuring that local communities hear the call for justice.

See more on this panel discussion

Ministerial dialogue on ‘The Role of Faith Communities in Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict’

In a high level event to reflect on the role of faith at the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi, spoke powerfully on the priorities for action.

The ministerial dialogue, chaired by Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State at the UK Foreign Office and Minister for Faith, included interventions from Cardinal Vincent Nichols from the Roman Catholic Church in England, Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah from Saudi Arabia and Solange Mukamana from South Africa.

The dialogue was an opportunity to speak to ministers and senior policy makers from governments, the United Nations and the European Union.

The two archbishops addressed a range of issues relating to sexual violence in conflict, including care and support for survivors and tackling impunity and wider conflict prevention.

In the picture below left, the Archbishop of Canterbury stands with Baroness Warsi, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and other faith leaders.

Archbishop Justin said, “It is no use trying to tackle sexual violence unless that process is integrated into measures to deal with issues of conflict. Practically that means the provision of support for civil society.”

Reflecting on the role of culture, he added, “All of us who are church leaders have to ensure that the message we convey is the dignity of the human being, the dignity of the woman.  Sexual violence is not merely wrong, it is deeply contrary to everything a man should be involved with – and most of the crimes, almost all of them, are committed by men.”

Speaking about the role of faith leaders and faith communities and their mandate to minister to all, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (pictured below) said, “As Church, we see faces of survivors and perpetrators. All are created in the image of God. Even a perpetrator was made in the image of God. When judged and imprisoned he also needs opportunity to be transformed. He also is someone to be redeemed. And we need local and international collaboration for this.”


Archbishop Bernard also stressed that the issue of sexual violence should be included as an item of its own in the Post 2015 development agenda. He said: “This issue is urgent – we will not only speak out but we shall act together and act now.”

See the Archbishop of Canterbury’s full remarks here 

And read the full article on the ministerial dialogue.

<p “text-align: center;”> <p “text-align: left;”>  <p “text-align: left;”>Interactive displays at the Global Summit Fringe

Member organisations of the We Will Speak Out coalition also displayed a photo exhibition and showed films in the Summit fringe silent cinema to show how they are working to end sexual violence.  Some of the team are pictured on the right.

This film highlighting Theresa Malila’s work in Malawi on sexual violence was one of the films shown.  You can see more about Theresa at

In Democratic Republic of Congo, Mugisa Isingoma, President of the Union Of Women For Peace And Social Promotion (UFPPS) from the Anglican Church of Congo, spoke at the British Embassy in Kinshasa.

Speaking at an event at the British Embassy in Kinshasa to mark the Global Summit, Madame Mugisa Isingoma from the Anglican Church of Congo spoke about sexual violence in the DRC and how the church is working to prevent sexual violence and respond to survivors.

She said “The multifaceted crisis experienced by the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades has led not only to deep wounds within its communities, but also to stresses and traumas that will affect many people for a long time to come. This has prompted a profound change in behaviour among Congolese people – a negative shift in their way of being and even of living; the population has lost confidence in itself…Against this bleak picture, the churches constitute the only structure which the Congolese people can still trust. First, because the churches identify with the communities they serve. Second, because of their authoritative place among the people. And last, because of the compassion they show in the face of people’s pain, especially in these times of crisis.”

From research the Anglican Church in Congo had conducted with survivors of sexual violence, Mugisa Isingoma called on the government in DRC to enforce the security of all people and to bring an end to the impunity of perpetrators, whilst also providing for the reintegration of survivors in their respective communities through socio-professional coaching.

She called on the churches to be safe spaces for survivors, to improve their capacity for advocacy on issues of sexual violence, to teach about the prevention of sexual violence and the restoration of human dignity and for the Church to support survivors psychosocially through income-generating activities.

In the picture on the right, Archbishop Henri Isingoma and Dr Jo Luci talk to BBC Radio 4 about their involvement at the Global Summit.

In Bangladesh, the Church of Bangladesh worked with the Akota project to discuss the importance of the Summit and how to take their work forward.

A discussion session was arranged on 11 June in Dhaka, Bangladesh by the Akota project of the Church of Bangladesh to coincide with the Global Summit. The meeting discussed the issues and the importance of the motions of the Global Summit and agreed to work together to end sexual violence in Bangladesh.

The participants proposed that issues of sexual violence be made compulsory in the Church of Bangladesh’s ministries relating to Education, Health, Youth and Women’s Fellowship and that the churches raise their voices to end sexual violence and to challenge stigma relating to survivors.

The Church of Bangladesh’s Akota project has specific programmes to overcome violence against women and is supporting survivors with counselling, mediation, arranging arbitration and providing support to court cases under its Legal Aid Scheme.

The meeting highlighted how sexual violence in conflict in Bangladesh had a deep and shocking impact on communities during its liberation war in 1971. Between two and four hundred thousand Bangladeshi women were raped during the conflict, which left a lasting trauma on those who survived the sexual violence.

Regular updates on the Anglican Alliance’s work with the We Will Speak Out coalition will be on our website at