Attendees of the End Sexual Violence in Conflict Global Summit mill about on June 10, 2014, in London. Creative Commons image courtesy the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Attendees of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict mill about on June 10, 2014, in London. Creative Commons image courtesy the Foreign & Commonwealth Office


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LONDON (RNS) Religious leaders from across Africa and England came together Wednesday (June 11) to discuss the role clergy should play in preventing and responding to sexual violence.

The panel was part of the three-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict co-chaired by Angelina Jolie, the special envoy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Jolie and Hague made an unannounced appearance before the event, causing attendance to surge and preventing several dozen participants from entering the crowded conference room.

In a pre-recorded video message, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby started the session by describing some of the positive developments he observed firsthand on a recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Historically there has been a culture of impunity,” he said. “Faith leaders are challenging that culture fiercely and saying that rape and sexual violence in war is absolutely unacceptable and will result in consequences.”

Clergy from England and a range of states in Africa championed Welby’s message.

“Religious leaders are a tremendous moral and spiritual influence and they have a unique understanding of their own communities,” said Shahin Ashraf, the University of Birmingham’s Muslim chaplain and an activist for gender justice. She cautioned that while religion can be part of the healing process it can also be part of the problem “when people aren’t properly informed about religious texts and debates.”

Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu, a Jewish leader in London, said faith leaders must “speak the unspeakable” and actively support women and men who have suffered from sexual violence, a crime she described as both physical and spiritual.

“When a woman who is taught that her body exists to guard the family’s purity is raped, she is then shamed, internalizes that shame and blames herself,” Ambalu said. “If religious institutions suppress that — or even, God forbid, cause that — then we heap humiliation and helplessness not just on women but on boys and men who might also be the victims of rape.”

Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje of the Anglican Church of Rwanda nodded in agreement. “We have to prevent sexual violence by playing our prophetic role,” he said. “The church is a sleeping giant. Let us get up and speak out.”

The Rev. Nicholas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance in the Central African Republic,  said that to overcome conflict, religious leaders must be fully integrated and involved in the peace-building process.

A closed session of government representatives will convene Thursday to discuss implementing recommendations raised in the public session.

YS/MG END PELLOT

11 Comments

  1. Michael Glass

    Forced circumcision is sexual violence that also happens in war and conflict. So is forcing men to reveal whether they have been circumcised or not. The conference should also deal with this issue.

  2. “She cautioned that while religion can be part of the healing process
    it can also be part of the problem
    ‘when people aren’t properly informed about religious texts and debates.’ ”

    Alas. Those religious texts do get in the way:

    God COMMANDS YOU…
    KILL THE BOYS AND SAVE THE VIRGINS FOR YOURSELVES FOR SEX
    “Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. ‘Why have you let all the women live?’ he demanded. …They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.” (Num:31:18)

    Instead of trying to approach these ‘texts’
    for proper meaning – how about we just throw them away?
    How about the trash?
    Isn’t the trash the perfect place for this drivel?

    Religion is nonsense.
    Humanism is our only hope.

    • Religion is one thing; Religious, quite another. It’s what you do with “the Word” that matters.
      The specific passage in Numbers is speaking on “the elect” within arbitration of “HUMAN” ideals … not murder as MANKIND “understands” murder. Who relegated the misfit? Take a peek into history after Yeshua prophesied on Truth? Jesus illustrated the FEMININE DIVINE ‘countless’ times (Numbers—get the connection?)

      Man is in INFANCY in his understanding of God.

      www.spirrealism.wordpress.com

      Thank you

      • @Opheliart,

        If anything is infantile, it is the disgraceful, disgusting Yahweh and his side-kick, Jesus:

        GOD SAYS – CUT OFF YOUR WIFE’S HAND IF SHE TOUCHES ANOTHER MAN’S PENIS.

        “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and SEIZING HIS GENITALS, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.” – DEUT. 25:11

        Cut off your wife’s hand? Show no pity to YOUR WIFE??

        Jesus agrees: (JOHN 1:17), (Mark 10:19)

    • The Bible is no Religious book. No Religion either.
      Its transparency is mind boggling. The God of the Bible is that.

      Good to have someone in the opposition.
      Imagine the finite human trying to understand all of the Infinite.
      Remember, the secret things belong to the God Of Israel / God of the Bible / God of every born again christian – me too !!
      This world is incomplete without you ‘Athiest Max’ .

  3. Brian Pellot

    Brian Pellot

    Article author

    Michael – The conference did deal with FGM, and the British Foreign Office is hosting a separate conference on that specific topic next month.

    • Michael Glass

      Brian, sexual violence doesn’t just happen to women and children. Men are also victims to rape and other sexual violence, especially in times of war and conflict. Sexual assaults on men, and this includes forced circumcision, need to be addressed along with the sexual abuse and rape of women and children.

      My article on the forced circumcision of men can be found at http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2013/09/06/medethics-2013-101626.short?rss=1

  4. A.M.,

    RE: “If anything is infantile, it is the disgraceful, disgusting Yahweh and his side-kick, Jesus:”

    Agl. James says PARTIALITY IS A SIN. Ascent of heart to mind is of the Essence. Essence and Energy are of One in God. The “language” that you vehemently display as illicit and disgraceful is of an exploratory and revolutionary exodus within Light. Men understand the words written but do not understand the Written Word. You read it in the contemporary West, a season of disillusion and fostering of antiquated purpose. We enter the East. The face of Christianity will change as will the landscape of religion. The ancients of The Philokalia walked a strenuous line of reaching … but to be water-logged in religious/spiritual wanderings is no different than being as dry as the stick of chalk left on the side of the blackboard. A small mind finds room for his own intellect, but a wise one builds a house for many.

    John 14.2

    Thank you

    • Dear Opheliart,

      That was beautiful, poetic, ethereal and very fun to read. Like music almost – really. You have a talent for writing. And your choice of John (my favorite gospel) is perfectly lovely.

      “Many mansions” indeed. Seems like all paths are valid, but of course Jesus is not saying that at all.

      Let me try it your way.
      The truth is a longing in the heart but you will not find it there for it is somewhere on the road and we see not the jouney’s end. Trust the road, the feel of the solid stones along the way because it is true and it will guide us to a clear and holy heart.

      How did I do? Not as good as you.

      But Yahweh and Jesus are still disgusting.

  1. […] Religious leaders from across Africa and England came together Wednesday (June 11) to discuss the role clergy should play in preventing and responding to sexual violence. The panel was part of the three-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict co-chaired by Angelina Jolie, the special envoy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. [Read more] […]

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