DRC faith leaders pledge to eliminate sexual violence
In the week that Foreign Secretary William Hague called for rape as a weapon of war to be ‘removed from the world’s arsenal of cruelty’, faith leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), often called the rape capital of the world, today pledged to work together to help rid the country of the crime.
Led by the Anglican Church in DRC and Christian development agency Tearfund, leaders of some of DRC’s major faiths gathered in Kinshasa to pledge to take action to prevent sexual violence, in a country where one woman is raped every ninety seconds.
The Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo, the Most Revd Henri Isingoma, together with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Methodist Church, Salvation Army and Pentecostal Church launched We Will Speak Out, a new coalition of faith leaders speaking out against rape, tackling its root causes, supporting survivors and working to end impunity.
Archbishop Henri Isingoma said: “Women in our country have paid a high price for the instability and cultural attitudes that continue to influence our society. We are called to challenge these harmful attitudes and to share the divine message of equality between men and women, for the well being of all.”
“It is our mandate to continue to tackle the root causes of sexual violence and to work together to care for the survivors. I am convinced that by taking action and working together with other faith groups, we will accomplish our mission to eradicate sexual violence.
Speaking from Kinshasa, Veena O’Sullivan, head of Tearfund’s Sexual Violence Unit, said: “As people of faith we cannot tolerate the fact that rape is endemic in our society. We are at our most powerful when we work together to break the silence, to end the pain, and to shatter the stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence.”
Diane Corner, British Ambassador to DRC and Dr Sahko, UNAIDS Country Director in DRC, added their backing to the We Will Speak Out coalition earlier today.
British Ambassador, Diane Corner, said: “Ending the scourge of sexual violence in conflict is a priority for the UK and for me personally. Those of us who have met survivors, who have listened to their devastating stories, know that we must do everything we can to end this terrible crime. We owe it to them, to their families and to their communities.”
Dr Sakho, of UNAIDS, said: “Faith-based organisations are an indispensable partner in efforts to eradicate sexual violence. Speaking on behalf of all UN agencies, we will make every effort to work with the religious community to tackle sexual violence and HIV and AIDS in DRC.”
Earlier this month, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the UK Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds MP, met rape survivors and pledged their commitment to help churches and civil society organisations prevent sexual violence, launching a new British-funded initiative with the Anglican Church and Tearfund to prevent sexual violence.
On 10-13 June, [Britain’s] Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, will co-chair the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London, the largest gathering on this subject.
In a continent seemingly obsessed with the prospect of consensual, faithful, Same-Sex relationships, here is one African Anglican Archbishop, ++Henri Isingoma, head of the Anglican Church in the Congo, who is determined to focus on the often under-reported problem of sexual violence against women.
Compared with the GAFCON Primates focus on the small number of people directly involved in consensual homosexual activity, heterosexual rape seems to have escaped their scrutiny of what they have decided is the most important moral issue in the world-wide Anglican Communion.
It is commonly known today that the majority of HIV-infected women in the African countries have been the victims of tainted heterosexual sex – whether by consensual activity, or – more likely – by the crime of rape. And while homosexuals (of whom there are supposed to be very few in Africa, according to certain African Anglican Primates) are being blamed for the incidence of HIV-Aids that has become endemic in most African countries, the real problem of heterosexual rape is being ignored.
One cannot but admire the Anglican Archbishop of The Congo for his brave and principled stand against heterosexual rape in that country. One could only wish that his example would encourage other African Anglican Prelates to ease up on their anti-gay prejudice, and so more for the women of their countries by protesting against heterosexual rape.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand