You may remember that in November I wrote about my colleague Veena’s work in South Africa to fight Sexual Violence, working with a coalition called We Will Speak Out.
Last week, a national ‘We Will Speak Out ’ coalition launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since 1994, the Great Lakes Region of Africa – and particularly the DRC – has seen sexual violence on an huge scale. In the East of the DRC, the rate of sexual violence has increased at a tremendous pace, due in part to the continual social insecurity caused by repeated conflict. Women and young girls are the most frequent victims, but society as a whole is affected by these crimes through the damage they do to people, relationships, communities.
The need for healing in DRC is huge – and we believe that the ’We Will Speak Out’ coalition has great potential to play a role in that, by encouraging the church to open itself up to be a safe space for those who are trying to survive sexual violence. Tearfund have done research that shows that the church is a trusted institution with a long reach in DRC, and that it has the ability to be that kind of space and to work with other organisations – like Tearfund and he UN – to support survivors, to enable them to tell their stories and to help them become people who can support others – to change their communities and their country.
Of course, the success of this isn’t just about the big launch – it’s about doing something, together, over the next years. Veena and the coalition are spending today creating an action plan, which they will then be working to put in place . Please pray for them as they work together, for protection for church leaders in the DRC as they seek to engage more, speaking out against sexual violence and responding with compassion to survivors who need support, and challenging some harmful cultural attitudes and beliefs regarding masculinity within their society. Pray that God will do amazing things through this coalition.
My friend Veena O’Sullivan, speaking from Kinshassa, summed it up “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.”
This is the pledge card WWSO are using in DRC
We recognise our failure to respond adequately to sexual violence and our role in marginalising those who have experienced its devastating consequences. We recognise that responding to sexual violence is essential in our work, in our communities and in our world. We commit to addressing sexual violence in our contexts to the best of our ability, aiming to end it in all its forms, together.
We will speak out.
We will be silent no more.
We stand together in solidarity with the most vulnerable.
We dedicate ourselves to finding lasting solutions; mobilising leadership at all levels.
We will promote laws that model, protect and promote justice, enable healthy relationships and challenge those that don’t.
We will work to ensure that these laws are enforced.
We commit to take action together to see all girls, women, boys and men freed from the threat and impact of sexual violence across the world.
We commit to ensuring:
1. Faith communities will speak out and act
2. Churches will become safe spaces for survivors
3. Survivor movements will influence policy and practice
4. Men will be involved in preventing sexual violence
5. We will integrate good practice responses within humanitarian responses
What does it inspire you to commit to?