Justice and peace are not possible without the involvement and participation of women. To accomplish this vision the United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 can be an important negotiation tool for religious women's on-going work for conflict resolution and peace-building around the world.

Such was a premise of a weeklong seminar entitled “Women's Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace” which took place from 9 to13 June as part of the continuing education programme of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.

The workshop seminar was an initiative of the Just Community of Women and Men, formerly known as Women in Church and Society, a programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in collaboration with the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey.

With acknowledgment that sexual and gender-based violence figures prominently in crimes against humanity, especially the use of rape as a weapon of war, the WCC programmes are exploring ways of empowering religious women to take their places in strengthening efforts at conflict resolution and peace-building.

“We are exploring the accessibility of some existing gender justice instruments, like UNSCR1325, so that church women can be empowered to use them for their own negotiations,” explained Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, organizer of the seminar and programme executive for the WCC’s Just Community of Women and Men.

UNSCR1325 is the landmark resolution, passed in 2000, which “reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”

The seminar facilitators included Dr Susan St. Ville from Joan B. Kroc Institute of the University of Notre Dame, United States, and Dr Zilka Siljak, Bosnian scholar and a visiting lecturer in Women’s Studies and Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School. They encouraged and enabled participants to draw from their own experiences of conflict resolution to compose possible plans of action for their own personal, local and regional activities.

The seminar brought together 25 women from diverse backgrounds. They shared narratives of their own experiences and those of others, who had survived sexual violence in conflict, post-conflict or even non-armed conflict situations. The participants came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, Korea, Cameroon, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

Dr Marina Ngursangzeli Behera of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey and Dr Maria Van Heemstra of the WCC were among the organizers of the seminar. The Lutheran World Federation and the United Methodist Women also supported the event with other ecumenical organizations and churches.

Religion is two-edged sword for women after trauma and violence (WCC news release of 13 June 2014)

UN Security Council resolution 1325

Women in Church and Society