The bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, hasspoken out against sexual violence affecting women and childrenescaping Syria and criticised “archaic attitudes” to women thatdominate the region.
In a piece written for ACNS, the Bishop says the crisis inSyria “requires urgent action” and noted that Christians “cannot besilent [witnesses] to the brutal treatment of women and children”.
He wrote: “The UN has reported that 2.5 million people have fledtheir homes. Many are women and children who are fleeing in fear fromthe ongoing sexual violence against them. The International RescueCommittee reports that those who finally make it into the refugee campsare also victimized.
“As refugees, women and girls (and boys) remain vulnerable tomultiple forms of gender-based violence, and unfortunately few casesare reported due to the feeling of shame or fear of retribution. Thiscrisis requires urgent action.”
Bp Dawani said that a key responsibility for Christians in theregion was to change attitudes towards women so that future generationsof women avoid years of continued suffering.
He shared some of the work his diocese was doing to “raise awareness, change attitudes, and behaviours that lead to violence.”
Read the whole statement below:
FROM BISHOP IN JERUSALEM THE RT REVD SUHEIL DAWANI
The latest news coming out of Syria and the refugee camps is so deeply appalling and tragic.
I pray daily for all those in the midst of pain and terror, especially the women and children.
The UN has reported that 2.5 million people have fled their homes.Many are women and children who are fleeing in fear from the ongoingsexual violence against them. The International Rescue Committeereports that those who finally make it into the refugee camps are alsovictimized. As refugees, women and girls (and boys) remain vulnerableto multiple forms of gender-based violence, and unfortunately few casesare reported due to the feeling of shame or fear of retribution.
This crisis requires urgent action.
Syria is rich with history and culture and has a key role in our ownChristian heritage – St Paul was converted on the road to Damascus andtoday Syria is the home to approximately 2 million Christians – it isthe largest Christian community in the Middle East outside Egypt.
As Christians, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide, we arecalled to respond to this crisis. Jesus is our example of how we are tolive and Our Lord has specifically told us to ‘look after orphans andwidows in their distress’ (James 1:27b) and we are to treat each otherwith respect and kindness -‘love your neighbour’ (Mark 12:31).
We, as Christians, must work to be the bridge of reconciliation thatcan bring peace, with justice, to the Middle East. In this land, thatall the Abrahamic faiths hold Holy, we co-exist, living side by side;however, we cannot be a silent witness to the brutal treatment of womenand children. The ravages of war will leave, are leaving, deep scarsthat will take generations to heal.
It is vitally important that we work to change the archaic attitudesthat dominate this region of the world. Generations of women knownothing more than continued suffering.
Here in the Diocese of Jerusalem we are working to empower women andyouth. In our institutions, our schools, and training centres, weprovide an environment where boys and girls are equally valued and areequally encouraged to participate in learning and activities thatfoster positive and respectful relationships irrespective of gender,ability and ethnicity.
Through the empowering work of the Women’s Ministry in the Dioceseof Jerusalem, we are implementing important, and necessary, awarenessinitiatives, such as White Ribbon Day and participating in the ’16 Daysof Activism for the Elimination o f Violence against Women’. OurWomen’s Ministry promotes women leadership by having excellent femalerole models from our local community, speak at our workshops. We areworking diligently to raise awareness, change attitudes, and behavioursthat lead to violence.
I have the deepest concern for all people, women and children, whoare in Syria, and in the refugee camps in foreign lands. My prayers areongoing for peace, with justice and reconciliation, that we can livein a world of non-violence, that we can hold our women and children astreasures and treat them with the respect and dignity that all humanbeings deserve.
May God be with us all.
The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani
Bishop in Jerusalem