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Women’s Task Force Calls for Religious and Spiritual Communities to Stand With Survivors and Stop Sexual Violence

December 1, 2017

An Introduction from Elizabeth Ursic, Chair of the Women’s Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions:
The Women’s Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions stands in solidarity with all who are shining a light on sexual abuse and harassment in today’s world. Religions must put the needs of victim-survivors first, particularly those who have been harmed within religious and spiritual contexts.
People often turn to their spiritual communities when they need support, hope, and a moral compass through life.
When an authority figure in these communities abuse them, it can shatter a person’s faith as well as their sense of safety and worth.
We call upon all religions to bring forward moral teachings to stop all abuse, and to correct any teaching or practice that re-victimizes members of their communities, particularly those who speak up. Religions must do more to be a part of the solution. We commit for the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto to highlight the best work in this area and to help more people become active in stopping sexual abuse and harassment.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Stands With Victim-Survivors of Sexualized Violence
Women’s Task Force Calls for Religious and Spiritual Communities to End Sexual Abuse

The Women’s Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions calls upon religious traditions and spiritual communities to stand up and address sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment that is occurring within religious contexts and throughout mainstream society.
We as people of faith and conscience are called upon to hear and believe the experiences of victim-survivors who are speaking up in every sector of society, and across all cultures, and to do our utmost to challenge and confront the cultures and systems that promote and enable this abuse of power.
Our commitments to stopping sexualized and gender-based violence are outlined in the Declaration for the Dignity and Human Rights of Women, delivered at the historic Inaugural Women’s Assembly at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. We invite our human family and especially those in positions of leadership and power to join us in affirming to:

call upon all religious leaders and adherents to challenge and change harmful teachings and practices that justify discrimination and violence against women and girls
call upon the world’s religions to honor and uphold the dignity, well-being, and fundamental human rights of women and girls.
commit ourselves to this collective undertaking to heal the heart of our humanity by releasing women, girls, men and boys from the bondage of gender-based discrimination and violence. We do so with hope and with faith in our future.

We stand with all who have shared their most personal testimony of this no-longer-unspeakable truth. And to those who are still yet unable to share their experiences, especially within religious institutions, for fear of retribution or threats to their personal safety: we see you and support you.
We call upon all religious and spiritual traditions and the interfaith movement to join with the Women’s Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions as we continue to do our utmost to break the chains of silence by strengthening, implementing and enforcing policies and practices that will transform us into a better, more decent and just society. We also give our gratitude to the agencies that have already taken action to demonstrate that sexualized violence and harassment will no longer be tolerated within their institutions.
Religious and spiritual communities, though complicit participants in a global culture of sexual violence, can and should draw from each of their divine and sacred inspirations the courage that is required now to end this cycle.
Victims-survivors of violence and abuse— sexual, physical and emotional— in spiritual or religious communities (as well as in the home or the workplace) have shown courage in raising their voices.
The time is now for us all to be courageous.
Let us be committed and united together against sexual violence and discrimination, wherever it may be.

Image: At the Faith In Women plenary of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, women in a 10,000-strong crowd stand and raise their fingers together to show solidarity with abused persons around the world and stand for the reclaimation of women’s dignity and bodies from cycles of sexualized abuse, gender-based violence and exploitation. October 16, 2015, Parliament of the World’s Religions