Public Statement:  Gender based Violence: Faith Leaders and Survivors Call on All Faith Communities to Act Decisively. 13/6/2018

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Participants at the event

We, a group of 41 faith leaders from 17 churches and other faith based organisations in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng met recently to plan for 365 Days of decisive action by the faith sector to address the crisis of gender based and intimate partner violence in South Africa.
Noting with horror the increasing numbers and depravation of violence being reported, mostly against women and children, we realise that we are a nation at war with itself! 

We have listened to the voices of survivors of sexual, intimate partner and other forms of gender based violence. Voices that are troubling to the conscience of our churches and other faith organisations. Voices that call churches and other faith communities to be become more responsive and humane.

We recognise our failures as faith communities, when we have:

  • not listened well to their cries, and have sent them away with easy ‘solutions’,
  • stigmatised and even blamed them,
  • normalised unjust gender relations, and
  • sometimes even excused perpetrators. 

We declare that responding to sexual and gender based violence is not optional but integral to our ministries to the needs of God’s people.

And thus…. 

We call on all those called to positions of leadership in the diverse faith communities in South Africa, to join us as we commit to the following practical steps: 

  • to involve known survivors to lead or guide our initiatives since they understand best what is needed; 
  • to speak out against sexual and gender based violence in any form;
  • to preach against sexual and gender based violence, and tackle attitudes that make any form of it seem acceptable;
  • to include the above teachings into programmes with Sunday Schools, baptism, confirmation, Women’s and Men’s organisations and Marriage Preparation;
  • to revisit those doctrinal dogmas or religious practices that undermine the equal dignity and humanity of all God’s people, (male, female and those of nonconforming sexual identities);
  • to provide safe spaces for survivors to come forward for help, and for support groups to meet; 
  • to tackle any incidents of sexual or other forms of violence head-on, refuse to cover up any reports or excuse or protect a perpetrator, regardless of their status, and establish appropriate procedures and forums to investigate specific incidents; 
  • to establish permanent structures and mechanisms for safe and confidential case reporting;
  • to put in place safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure our places of worship and communities are safe for all people, including abuse survivors and anyone who acts in solidarity with them; 
  • to be a prophetic presence to call service providers to account for effective, timeous and respectful service to ensure justice is done and avoid further harm to survivors. 

To this end, we as collective members of the We Will Speak Out Coalition members commit to: 

  • standing in solidarity with survivors and survivor groups wherever needed;
  • sharing our experiences and resources freely to strengthen each other; 
  • supporting each other’s initiatives where we can;
  • organising joint dialogues, theological platforms and practical discussions as funding allows; 
  • undertaking joint advocacy to speak with a united voice into key debates and cases as they arise. 

For further information contact coordinator@wwsosa.org.za, 0724537502.

Endorsed by representatives of the following organisations and faith communities: 
We Will Speak Out South Africa
Phephisa Survivor Movement 
Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Diocese of Natal
Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Women's Manyano
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa
Zoe Christian Fellowship International
Waters of Life, Religious Forum
Diakonia Council of Churches
KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council 
KwaZulu Regional Christian Council
South Coast KZN Council of Churches
Religions and Peace
Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action
Ebandla
Tear Fund UK
Sinani Survivors of Violence
Sonke Gender Justice
Act Alliance Solidarity Hub in Southern Africa

The below is not part of the press statement, but gives a bit of background to who we are. 

SURVIVORS IN SOLIDARITY

The PHEPHISA Survivor Movement, the We Will Speak Out Coalition, their members and their partners in KZN work towards a united and effective faith based movement acting to prevent and respond appropriately to GBV. 

We support all religious communities as they journey towards becoming:
•safe spaces for victims as they journey towards becoming survivors
•open to grapple with the drivers of sexual and gender based violence in their own teachings and practices
•prophetic voices that speak out to end SGBV in faith community and society.