ICJSA calls for action on violence in the Congo

12 Dec 2008

14 December 2008

ICJSA Bishop calls for Irish Government action to assist Congolese women and girls who are subject to gender-specific violence

Action in response to sexual violence is a moral imperative that cannot be ignored by all who believe in the dignity of every human person – ICJSA

To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA) today [Sunday, 14 December 2008] launched a position paper on the current military violence and sexual exploitation of woman and girls in the Congo.

Launching the position paper “Violence again women in war – We cannot remain silent” Bishop Raymond Field, chairman of the ICJSA, said:  “As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, described by Pope John Paul II as ‘a true milestone on the path of humanity’s progress’, it is appropriate that we remember those throughout the world who continue to experience violations of their human rights and dignity.

“This is particularly true in the case of the current conflict in the Congo where:

  • women are being systematically targeted and raped to humiliate and instil fear in the indigenous population;
  • there is forced recruitment of boys and men by armed groups;
  • violence against women is being used as a deliberate strategy of war enforced by aggressive militarism and misogyny;
  • there is a total lack of justice and dignity afforded to those civilians who have survived these appalling attacks; and,
  • weak governance structures exist which in themselves have fostered a culture of impunity relating to rape and sexual violence.

“In highlighting this issue we must also acknowledge that violence against women in war cannot be divorced from the larger global issue of domestic violence and the violence associated with the trafficking of young women and children to work in the sex industry.

“While such crimes are becoming less anonymous, the challenge remains immense.  The extent that Ireland is being used by human traffickers of women and children was commendably analysed on 4 December last by RTÉ’s Primetime Investigates.  Those who stand up for these voiceless women and children in Ireland deserve our support and I wish to specifically single out the exemplary work of Ruhama in this area.

“As Christmas is about human solidarity and caring for the vulnerable and innocent, it is now timely for the Irish to offer help to the Congolese,” said Bishop Field.  “One important contribution we can make is by raising awareness of this issue on both a national and international level.  The media have a particularly significant role to play in this regard and today I am inviting the Irish media to urgently focus on the human devastation unfolding in the Congo which is physically ripping families and communities apart and whose psychological and social legacy will have lasting repercussions for future generations.”

“At a political level, the ICJSA is calling on the Government of Ireland:

  • to support those countries calling for the immediate deployment of EU troops to support the UN mission in the Congo; and,
  • to use its influence at the United Nations and in the EU to exert pressure for renewed peace talks involving all groups in the Congolese conflict
  • to prioritise the work of preventing gender-based violence in war and assisting the victims through the development and humanitarian work of Irish Aid.

Bishop Field concluded by praising the work of the Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence – of which Trócaire is a member – and whose objective is to ‘promote the adoption of a coherent and coordinated response to gender-based violence’.

Please click here for a copy of the ICJSA position paper Violence against women in war – We cannot remain silent, which was published today.


Notes for Editors

  • Media representatives, public policy makers and NGOs were invited to this ICJSA launch which took place in the Daughters of Charity Community Services centre in Henrietta Street, Dublin.
  • About the ICJSA: The role of the ICJSA is to support the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in promoting the social teaching of the Church and to advise on issues of social concern, both nationally and internationally.
  • Established in 2005 by the Department of Social Issues and International Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference, the newly formed ICJSA combined the Bishops’ Council for Social Welfare and the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace
  • The mission statement of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs is as follows: ‘To promote the social dimension of the Gospel with a view to building the civilisation of love.’
  • The Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence is a group of Irish human rights, humanitarian and development agencies and two government departments – Irish Aid and the Irish Defence Forces.  For further information see: www.gbv.ie.
  • On 10 December 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)