By Nigel Baker, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Holy See (@UKinHolySee)
One of the important ministerial sessions at the Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, being held in London from 10-13 June, will be about the role and responsibilities of faith networks in helping to bring to an end this terrible crime. 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.
So I was delighted that CI Secretary-General Michel Roy agreed to join us for our webcast on Vatican Radio to help inform the global Catholic network about the Summit. While supporting British government efforts, Michel, with many years experience of dealing with sexual violence in conflict, was rightly cautious whether the Summit would yield instant results (the Summit is the most important element to date of a process to turn international political will into practical action, but there is still a long way to go). I was struck by his emphasis on the role of faith networks in helping to regenerate and ‘re-humanise’ communities that had been damaged by this crime, and his reminder that beyond the principal victims, sexual violence in conflict has many other hidden victims: traumatised family members, children born of rape, village elders undermined by their failure to stop the criminals.
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.