Silent No More: Continue to pray as impact felt!
In August Mandy Marshall from Tearfund UK / Restored asked us to stand with them in prayer for the Anglican Communion meeting being held that month in DRC and Burundi. Church leaders met to discuss the implications and actions for the church of the "Silent No More" Report on sexual violence. Here follows some of the impact and feedback from this meeting – thanks Mandy and Amanda for forwarding this:
'We are perpetrators. We have allowed this to happen in our churches' said a Bishop from the DRC. It was an amazing statement to hear on day one of the workshop & launch of the Silent No More report. The Bishop's statement was one of recognition that the church by its silence had been complicit in allowing sexual violence to go unaddressed within some of the churches. It was an acceptance of responsibility.
We heard from two survivors of sexual violence who are currently receiving care and support from Tearfund partner, HEAL Africa in DRC. Their stories were ones of utter destruction by gangs of men. It was heart-breaking and devastating to hear. Bishops began to cry. There was silence.
48 women an hour are raped in the DRC according to the American Journal of Public Health. Statistics can act as a deflection from the reality of the pain each individual endures. The two survivors brought a sharp, painful, reality to the statistics.
There was strong leadership and opening addresses from both the Archbishop of Burundi & Rwanda who were determined to speak out and be silent no more about sexual violence & to restore the dignity and respect of women and girls. The Archbishop of Burundi reiterated that 'men & women are equal before God' & that 'when men use women as tools for sex we misuse the image of God.' The Archbishop of Rwanda focused of the need 'to open our eyes & see the what is going on, as gender based violence is a reality within our communities.' Adding that 'the church needs to fight and denounce gender based violence.'
In Burundi we also heard from a survivor of violence who broke down in the middle of her story. It was hard to hear yet crucial to hear the voices of those who have been silent for so long.
Here too in Burundi, with Rwanda, we saw a real determination to make a difference, to move forward, to address the issue from within the church. preliminary action plans were developed around leadership, equipping the church, working in partnership with others, addressing stigma & discrimination, behaviour change & creating a safe environment.
The meeting in Burundi ended with a march through central Bujumbura to break the silence. Both Archbishops and the Bishops joined together with others in wearing white t-shirts and caps stating 'We will speak out on sexual violence' and 'silent no more' on the caps. A band went ahead creating noise and attention as we marched together in solidarity for the church speaking out on sexual violence.
Thank you for praying for these key meetings and being a part of God's big plan. It is crucial to ground all of what we do in prayer, listening for God's guidance and direction. Thank you for playing your part in this via prayer. It is very much valued and appreciated.
We are at the start of this process, recognising that we and the church have much to learn from those that have gone before us in addressing sexual violence. Bishops need to develop actions plans, funding needs to be gained, hearts changed, survivors finding comfort, healing & support.
Please do continue to pray remembering always the survivors and victims of violence.