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Faith leaders speak out on sexual violence in conflict

Faith leaders speak out on sexual violence in conflictFaith leaders from around the world including Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu of Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue shared stories at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. A debate chaired by UK Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP was hosted by the We will Speak Out coalition, a faith based group of organisations in more than 25 countries working to end sexual violence globally.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy actor Angelina Jolie and the UK’s Foreign Secretary Rt Hon William Hague MP visited the event to thank faith leaders for their work to help people who have survived sexual violence and to change the attitudes and behaviours that cause it.

Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, commended the UK Government through a filmed message in which he recounted recent visits to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. He spoke of a culture of brutality in eastern DRC, propagated by rebel groups and exacerbated by corruption in extractive industry operations, and claimed that “the churches are the main bulwark against this brutalisation.”

Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu urged religious leaders to confront the realities of sexual violence: “It is our job as religious leaders to speak out on the unspeakable. Where is God when these things happen? Rape is a spiritual attack on the dignity and integrity of a person who is made in the image of God, and we must teach responsibly in order to avoid blaming the person who has been raped.”

Speaking after the event she said: “It is a privilege to learn about the work going on in many countries to end sexual violence in conflict. I am also deeply proud that the UK government is leading this complex process. I believe that as Jews can and should play our part alongside other faith communities to bring about the changes in social attitudes that will help to prevent sexual violence, and to seek justice, support and rehabilitation for survivors. We, alongside other faith communities, must teach that every human being is made in the image of God. Our ultimate task must be the creation of safety for women, men and children, and that the shame of sexual assault belongs to the perpetrator and those who bring about this terrible violence, and not the people who become their targets. Our history and culture instils in us a deep commitment to justice. I therefore support the work of this international summit to bring about robust legal solutions to this terrible problem across the globe.”

The other panellists included: Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women (chair), Hon Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister for Gender and Development of the Republic of Liberia, Shahin Ashraf, Muslim chaplain, University of Birmingham, Reverend Nicolas Guerokoyame-Gbangou, President of the Evangelical Alliance in the Central Africa, Archbishop Dr Onesphore Rwaje, Anglican Archbishop of Rwanda, Miriam Maluwa, Chief, Office of Security and Humanitarian Affairs, UNAIDS and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.

This week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict brings together delegates from 100 countries to call for tough and effective judicial systems that will punish and deter those authorising rape as a weapon of war. Humanitarian agencies are also calling for aid budgets to recognise the prevalence of sexual violence and to allocate funding to serve survivors and help prevent assault.

The role of faith communities has been widely recognised at the summit, with many speakers referencing their personal faith or the contribution that faith leaders have made.

Find out more about the summit and how you can be involved.

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