Faith leaders rally to eliminate sexual violence in Congo

Archbishop Henri Isingoma

Faith leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have pledged to work together in eradicating sexual violence from the country.

The statistics from the DRC are harrowing, with one woman being raped every 90 seconds.

The Archbishop of the DRC, Henri Isingoma said: "Women in our country have paid a high price for the instability and cultural attitudes that continue to influence our society."

He was speaking at the launch of a new church coalition to tackle the causes of the sexual violence blighting communities torn apart by conflict. 

"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," he said.

"I am convinced that by taking action and working together with other faith groups, we will accomplish our mission to eradicate sexual violence."

In addition to the Anglican Church, the partnership brings together the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, and the Pentecostal Church.

Together they have formed the We Will Speak Out coalition, which will work to eradicate sexual violence and provide care for victims.

They are being supported in their work by the Christian development agency, Tearfund, which has extensive experience of working with rape survivors in the DRC.

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."

The launch of the coalition came in the same week as Foreign Secretary William Hague called for rape as a weapon of war to be "removed from the world's arsenal of cruelty".

Dr Mamadou Sakho, of UNAIDS, said faith-based organisations were "indispensable" in the fight against 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," said Dr Sakho.

Endorsing the coalition's efforts, British Ambassador to DRC, 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."