World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Press centre / News / Addressing sexual violence: ecumenical team to meet with church and humanitarian partners in West Africa

Addressing sexual violence: ecumenical team to meet with church and humanitarian partners in West Africa

07 March 2002

The World Council of Churches (WCC), along with Action by Churches Together (ACT) International and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) are sending an ecumenical team to West Africa to follow up on allegations in a recent confidential report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children UK on sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The delegation will arrive in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on March 11, after which they will visit Liberia and Guinea, planning to spend two weeks in the three countries.

ACT International, supported by its parent bodies the LWF and the WCC, issued a statement on 1 March condemning all forms of sexual abuse, saying it was "deeply concerned by the alleged extent of the sexual violence and exploitation of children by, amongst others, humanitarian aid workers, and shocked by the reports of testimonies given by the children and their families".

The team members will have different roles and tasks during this joint ecumenical effort. Some will have a specific responsibility to investigate the allegations and determine the need for operational improvements not only regionally, but also throughout the ACT alliance world-wide. Other team members will meet with churches and interreligious partners to discuss the issue of sexual violence in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

Melaku Kifle, programme executive for WCC International Relations and a member of the delegation, says, "We need to discuss together how churches at local, national and international levels can create awareness about sexual violence and harassment and take action against it. Such violence, wherever and whenever it occurs, cannot be tolerated."

ACT International coordinates and facilitates emergency and humanitarian relief efforts on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches. There are ten ACT members operating in the three countries. The members of the ecumenical team will visit all ACT members, WCC and LWF member churches, and related partners in those countries.

Members of the delegation include:

ACT International:

Sophie Gabbe Nygaard, senior advisor, Emergency Unit, Norwegian Church Aid

Roswitha Brender, desk officer, West Africa, Diakonie Emergency Aid (Germany)

Callie Long, communication officer, ACT International

Lutheran World Federation:

Paul Mbugua Kamau, Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church

World Council of Churches:

Bishop S. Tilewa Johnson, Anglican Diocese of Gambia

Melaku Kifle, programme executive, WCC International Relations