As the fight to contain Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) intensifies, former Chief Justice Cllr. Frances Johnson Allison has called on religious leaders to address violence against women and girls in the Liberian society.
Cllr. Allison made the call on Wednesday, September 26, in Monrovia at the opening of a 2-day conference on SGBV, which was organized by Faith and Justice Network (FJN) of Liberia, a regional Faith-based organization.
FJN also launched the Global Thursday campaign that the World Council of Churches originally started in the 1980s, with an aim to challenge attitude and behavior that sometimes result into violence against women.
The over 50 participants were drawn from the various Christian and Muslim organizations, and some government officials also attended the ceremony.
Cllr. Allison said that there is a need for faith leaders in Liberia take on the responsibility to address sexual violence emanating from the civil conflict in order to sustain the peace process.
She said it was unfortunate that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model adopted by Liberia to heal the country’s wound did not address sexual violence against women.
“The victims of sexual violence during the Liberian civil war also included sexual slaves where women and girls were held as wives against their will by ex-combatants long after the hostilities had ceased. The Truth and Reconciliation model adopted by Liberia to heal the nation’s wounds after a decade of fratricidal war, unfortunately, did not address sexual violence against women,” she explained.
She said that women are described in the Bible as weaker vessels and it is unfortunate for them to be subjected to sexual violence; therefore, it is necessary that the Church take the lead in speaking on women’s abuse.
The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Liberia and Board Chair of FJN, Jonathan B.B. Hart, said that the time is now that faith leaders must rise up to address issues of gender-based violence.
“The issues of gender-based violence must be addressed by the community of faith. For too long we have kept quiet on this issue so it is prudent that all Christians and Muslims join the FJN for peace and dialogue in our country, especially in tackling the challenge of sexual and gender-based violence against women and children,” he mentioned.
“We as the church must work together to support one another in putting an end to this issue which is affecting our country. Therefore public awareness by the church is important in this regard,” he added.
For his part, the Chief Iman of Liberia, Ali Krayee, said the Muslim community’s greatest challenge is violent extremism which is not only about Boko Haram but other Islamic groupings that distort the teachings of Islam. “The God that we worship is not a wicked God for us to use his name and his religion to maltreat other human beings. Ignorant is the key factor that is contributing to such wicked practice, and it will require that people become educated to stop such menace,” he said.
He said that the Islamic Council of Liberia (ICL) has been advocating that peace be exercised at home and in the community. “We want to assure you that the Muslim community will continue to educate its people that violence, especially against women, should not be allowed.”
The President of the Board of Governors of the Association of Evangelicals of Liberia, Dr. Samuel K. Monwell, stated that constant abuse of women and children is being compromised by family members due to cultural reasons. He told the gathering that in order to eradicate the practice of gender-based violence, the message must be communicated through the various Liberian vernaculars to reach many in rural communities.
“We must go back to our villages and educate the people about the rights of women and children. If we don’t go about with such a strategy the effect of what is being discussed today will not be realized,” the evangelical prelate said.
Lutheran Church Bishop Dr. Jensen Seyenkolo thanked FJN for the initiative to engage faith leaders in addressing gender-based violence in the Liberian society.