No more domestic violence: Faith leaders commit to stamping out abuse

A religious leaders' declaration on domestic violence will be launched tonight in the House of Lords.Reuters

Britain's religious leaders are to take a stand against domestic abuse at a gathering tonight at the House of Lords.

Organised by Restored, which campaigns to end violence against women, the event marks the first time that different faith leaders have stood on the same platform to acknowledge there is a problem of domestic abuse within their own faith communities and to pledge to do something about it.

Representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu leaders will endorse a declaration saying domestic abuse "can never be justified by the teachings of our faith".

The declaration commits the faith leaders to "addressing domestic abuse both within our own faith communities and in wider society". It says: "We look to be a force for good in promoting positive and effective action at both the local and national level," and commits them to appointing advisers to "encourage the use of good practice guidelines to address domestic abuse within our communities and to monitor the implementation of these guidelines".

Among other things, it says that "Domestic abuse in all its forms is unacceptable and irreconcilable with the teachings of our, or any other, faith or worldview" and that "as faith leaders we recognise our unique opportunities for challenging harmful beliefs, preventing abusive behaviour, and providing safe spaces for those affected by abuse".

Restored's work has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. It was given a platform at a Church of England General Synod meeting last year where its message was that if one in four women in the UK suffer domestic abuse, it must be happening in churches too.

Co-director Peter Grant said: "In all faiths in Britain right now domestic abuse is being committed unseen and unreported. What this declaration says to perpetrators of domestic violence is that we, as faith leaders, will not tolerate it, nor remain silent about it, but, recognising the unique and positive opportunities we have within our faith communities, will challenge abusive patterns of behaviour, whether physical, sexual, psychological or spiritual, that have become too common within our faiths and wider society."

Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, said: "Violence against women is a shocking reality that has pervaded most human cultures. Whether by 'turning a blind eye' or subliminal religious pressure to 'turn the other cheek' where Jesus would have confronted an evil, violence against women has been too often unchallenged by the Churches. In the name of Christ, who repeatedly defended the dignity of women, every Christian is mandated to speak out against any form of aggression towards women and girls wherever it is found."

Shahin Ashraf, of the Muslim Women's Network, said: "South Asian women are often burdened with feeling that the 'honour' of the family will be damaged if they speak about their abuse. We must change this attitude. It is imperative that we see a national campaign to raise awareness in our communities offering better frontline services that are faith and culturally sensitive."