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Leaders vow to end DRC rape shame

07 March 2014


Challenger: Archbishop Kahwa

Challenger: Archbishop Kahwa

RELIGIOUS leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have pledged to work together to end their country's reputation as the "rape capital" of the world.

Statistics suggest that, on average, a rape takes place every 90 seconds in the Central African state.

As a consequence, the Anglican Church in DRC and the Christian development agency Tearfund led a gathering in the capital Kinshasa last Friday to launch a group of the international campaign We Will Speak Out.

The Primate of the Church of the Province of Congo, the Most Revd Henri Isingoma Kahwa, said: "Women in our country have paid a high price for the instability and cultural attitudes that continue to influence our society. We are called to challenge these harmful attitudes and to share the divine message of equality between men and women, for the well-being of all."

The group includes the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, and Pentecostal Churches, and the Salvation Army.

The head of Tearfund's sexual-violence unit, Veena O'Sullivan, said: "As people of faith, we cannot tolerate the fact that rape is endemic in our society. We are at our most powerful when we work together to break the silence, to end the pain, and to shatter the stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence."

Last week, a fact-finding mission to the DRC by the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict called on the government and the international community to put women at the centre of peace efforts and bring an end to sexual violence.

In a report, Silent Suffering in Democratic Republic of Congo, released last week, the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that the country faces a continuing medical and humanitarian emergency, especially in the eastern provinces, where fighting has been the most intense.

It said that adequate assistance is not being provided in rural and conflict-affected areas.

MSF's medical co-ordinator in the DRC, Dr Jatinder Singh, said: "Outbreaks of diseases like measles, malaria, and cholera occur year after year in eastern DRC. Yet the health system is, in most cases, unable to prevent them or to respond. As a result, many people suffer and die, and the tragedy is that much of this human suffering could be prevented."

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