'Time to close the book on war zone rape'
“This is not mission impossible,” said Zainab Hawa Bangura, speaking at the opening plenary of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. “This is the moment, the best moment we have ever had and will ever have, and we cannot afford to let it slip by.”
Last week, BMS staff united with NGOS and Ministers, 350 representatives from conflict-affected countries, five Nobel laureates and hundreds of members of the public, all of whom share the same vision – to see an end to sexual violence.
Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, declared, “We are here today to write the last chapter in the history of war zone rape, and to close the book, once and for all, on humanity’s tolerance of such inhumanity.”
The statistics and stories shared over last week were horrifying – girls as young as three being raped in Sierra Leone, 1,100 women a day being sexually violated in D R Congo, communities ostracising survivors of rape and leaving them with nothing if they speak out about their abuse – and yet the overall message was not one of despair. It was one of hope.
Together, we can end this.
And Christians have a crucial role to play. “This is an issue in which we [the Church] can make a significant difference,” said Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a special video address at a panel discussion hosted by the We Will Speak Out coalition, of which BMS is a founding member.
Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, President of the Evangelical Alliance in Central African Republic, agreed that the Church should be at the centre of transformation. “If you want sexual violence to be overcome in my country then you need to involve religious leaders,” he said. “It is important that the international community support church leaders to support women, so their dignity can be restored, because I believe religious leaders are the people who can really bring change.”
The summit, which took place from 10-13 June at the ExCel Centre, London, was hosted by William Hague and Angelina Jolie, and was the largest ever gathering on this topic. Hague and Jolie opened the summit on Tuesday, and they announced a new protocol to end impunity for those who commit war zone rape.
“We can and we will make a difference,” said Hilary Clinton, former US Secretary of State, in a special video message. “Do not lose heart, this is a historic opportunity and you are here to seize it.”
BMS is launching a new initiative to combat gender based violence both overseas and in the UK. For updates over the coming months, live posts from the ESVC summit, and to add your voice visit the BMS sort it out blog and follow on Facebook.