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 investigate allegations of the sexual exploitation of children by, among others, international aid workers.
The allegations are contained in a confidential report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children UK and refer to sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The delegation was to arrive in Freetown, Sierra Leone, last month and planned to visit Liberia and Guinea.
ACT International, supported by its parent bodies, the LWF and the WCC, issued a statement in March condemning all forms of sexual abuse and saying it was “deeply concerned by the alleged extent of the sexual violence and exploitation of children by, amongst others, humanitarian aid workers.”
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 worldwide.
Others will meet with churches and inter-religious partners to discuss sexual violence in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence.
Melaku Kifle, program executive for WCC International Relations and a member of the delegation, said: “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.