The four-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict kicked off today in London, and actress Angelina Jolie, special envoy to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, was among celebrities participating. But although church officials were not in the spotlight, many religious groups are helping those facing sexual violence.
Nigel Baker, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, highlighted the role of Catholic agencies in this blog.
“Very often it is the missionaries, religious sisters and organisations like Caritas Internationalis that are the most-trusted long-term partners for communities facing conflict and trauma, because of their long-term, unconditional presence on the ground,” he wrote.
Church workers have helped victims of sexual violence in places like Congo, where one nun has said the trauma to which women are subjected “cripples them in all their activities.” Pope Francis has met victims of human trafficking, often one of the side effects of conflict. And during war in places like Central African Republic, women risk rape to venture to the fields to get food for their families.
The summit has some good ambitions, including introduction of an international protocol that might or might not be enforceable. But as Britain’s Baker says: “Perhaps the most important role that Catholics can play is support for the survivor. This might be the moral support provided by awareness raising, and insisting that stigma must attach to the perpetrator, not the victim. Or that very basic, fundamental role of accompanying the survivor and their community during the essential post-trauma restorative process. At the level of global leadership, or through on the ground, sleeves-rolled-up activism, Catholic networks are well placed to make a difference. It’s #TimeToAct.”