Mandy and I have spent much of the last week in London at the Global Summit on ending sexual violence in conflict. We have heard appalling stories from survivors of violence, but also been inspired by their courage and hope. We have seen William Hague and Angelina Jolie giving a strong lead on these issues and mobilising unprecedented support behind the global objective of ending sexual violence. We were particularly struck by the speech of David Morrison Chief of the Australian Army, who said many challenging things including “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. There are no bystanders.”
Restored member Jo Lusi from HEAL Africa spoke of his work to restore women and develop inter-faith “Nehemiah Committees” in 131 villages in Eastern DRC to combat sexual violence. This is in a culture where he said that military recruits often believe that “unless you rape a girl you won’t be seen as a man.” Churches have a vital role to play in changing these attitudes and it was great to meet the Bishops of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi who had come to the Summit to speak out on these issues.
We saw faith leaders engaged in a wide range of sessions and taken seriously for their role in ending sexual violence. This was recognised by the Summit’s conclusions as outlined in this extract from the Chair's summary:
“We noted that good laws and international agreements in themselves are not enough if attitudes don’t change. In this respect, faith groups have a key role to play, including in their role providing care, treatment and support for survivors. Through their networks, they often have access and influence with local communities that no other actor has. As such, they are uniquely placed to change hearts and minds, and challenge cultural and social norms, including notions of masculine identity as it affects sexual violence. The Summit recognised the need to engage faith-based organisations as active partners in the fight against sexual violence, both in helping to formulate strategy and in providing front-line support to survivors.”
This creates a tremendous platform for Restored and our partners in the We Will Speak Out coalition to take forward our work to mobilise churches to end violence.
Listen to my message to world leaders
As part of the summit, I had the chance to send my message to world leaders via the Guardian website. Click here to catch the 15 second and two minute versions.
We are not alone
There was a welcome focus on engaging men in ending violence and I was privileged to meet Wanjala Wafula the founder of Coexist in Kenya, Gary Barker from Promundo which started in Brazil and Dean Peacock and others from Sonke Gender Justice. These are some of the leading men’s campaigners on ending violence against women around the world. All were very encouraging towards First Man Standing. Have a look at Sonke’s "One Man Can" campaign to see what is possible when men get mobilised.