Mr Simmonds visited HEAL Africa in Goma today with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Archbishop of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to learn more about the devastating impact of sexual violence in conflict in the DRC, and to see how a UK-funded project will support local communities to end it.
Following on from the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Heal Africa in March last year, Mark Simmonds visited the hospital today to learn about the current situation, and to see how the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative is making a difference in eastern DRC.
With the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Archbishop of the DRC, he heard about the important role that faith groups are playing in tackling sexual violence, fighting impunity and supporting survivors. He also saw the work of a groundbreaking UK-funded project called ‘Silent No More’, which is being implemented by the Anglican Church of DRC and the NGO Tearfund. The project works with churches and other faith communities to reduce the incidence and impact of sexual violence in eastern DRC. The project will train faith leaders to tackle sexual violence and promote gender justice, develop and promote ‘Safe Communities’, and launch a campaign to mobilise positive male role models who stand against this violence.
The Minister said:
I am honoured to be here to launch the UK-funded ‘Silent No More’ project in DRC, which works with local faith groups to reduce the scourge of sexual violence. We cannot succeed in stopping rape and other abuses without local people working at the heart of communities to develop a shared commitment to end this devastating crime. Faith groups are well placed to do this. I am encouraged by the important work they are doing that I have seen today: together we will do everything we can to ensure that sexual violence is no longer a feature of conflict in the 21st Century.
The UK will host a global Summit on Sexual Violence in Conflict in June. I discussed this with President Kabila yesterday. I welcomed the appointment of a DRC Special Representative on Sexual Violence, and we look forward to working closely together on this critical agenda.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
The terrible suffering of the peoples of eastern DRC is a global tragedy. The most seriously affected are the most vulnerable, women and children. Since my first visit in 2009, I have been seeking to support those locally who tackle the issue of sexual violence. The programme of HEAL Africa is a notable contribution, setting a wonderful example of holistic care, best practice, and deep Christian compassion in partnership with the Anglican Church. It is a privilege to be here today with the Minister for Africa. The FCO programme against sexual violence is of huge significance, and a foundation of reconciliation.
The Anglican Archbishop of DRC, Henri Isingoma, said:
I welcome the joint work between the Anglican Church, Tearfund and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to end sexual violence. This is a priority issue for my church and for me personally. Ending the conflict in the region is also crucial, and that is why the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches of Burundi, Rwanda, and the DRC are working together in the pursuit of peace in the Great Lakes region. We encourage these churches to continue their implementation of the programme for peace, which started with the launch of the ‘One Year of Peace’ campaign on 1st December 2013 in Goma. We hope that other churches and Christian organisations as well as civil society will actively take part in more vibrant and concrete advocacy to end the hostilities that have lasted for so long across the Great Lakes region.
The co-founder of HEAL Africa, Dr Jo Lusi said:
In this debate, it is important not to neglect men, because although men are most often the perpetrators, they are also a crucial part of prevention and of the solution.
This is the Minister’s second visit to the DRC and follows on from the visit of the Foreign Secretary and Angelina Jolie to the country in March 2013 where they spoke about the need to tackle the issue of sexual violence in conflict.
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