Episcopal Relief & Development (ER&D) and Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) have launched a partnership to increase engagement among Christian and Muslim faith leaders to end gender-based violence (GBV) in Liberia. IRUSA's support expands the ongoing GBV program that Episcopal Relief & Development launched in 2015 with a three-year grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Implemented by the organization’s local partner, Episcopal Church of Liberia Relief and Development, this program equips local faith leaders – including youth – to prevent violence and increase support for survivors through utilizing the Faith Leader GBV Prevention and Response Toolkit and other strategies.
“It is very important that faith communities work together to support victims of gender-based violence or any other form of violence,” said Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief USA. “Our faith teaches us to respect and care for each other; to respect the rights and dignity of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. It is very important that women have safe spaces to pursue their aspirations.”
In Liberia, 45% of women aged 15-49 have experienced violence during their lifetime, and 18% have experienced sexual violence. GBV is pervasive throughout Liberia, attributable in part to social and institutional breakdown during the country’s 14-year civil war. Christian and Muslim faith leaders through the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and other groups helped to broker peace during the conflict, and in recent years these leaders have leveraged their influence and credibility to address GBV as well.
“We are working with faith leaders to examine religious texts that have been used to justify violence against women, and instead interpret them to encourage dignity and respect,” said Annette Musu Kiawu, the National Director for Episcopal Church of Liberia Relief & Development. “Christians and Muslims have worked together for peace and justice for many years, and there is tremendous power in our communities to promote and embody positive change on this issue.”
The GBV program trains a diverse group of stakeholders including pastors, imams, lay leaders, village elders, chiefs and youth group leaders on the causes and effects of GBV, how to support survivors and how to effectively and sustainably change attitudes and behavior regarding GBV in their communities. Active in six districts in Grand Cape Mount and River Cess counties, this program is part of a larger campaign of the Liberian Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to end GBV.
“Christians and Muslims have a shared commitment to care for those in need and challenge systems that oppress or exclude,” said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development. “Our communities have great potential for mobilizing social action, and I celebrate this partnership with IRUSA to engage and empower faith leaders to end GBV.”
For over 75 years, Episcopal Relief & Development has served as a compassionate response to human suffering in the world. The agency works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs, using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, it works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities create long-term development strategies and rebuild after disasters. www.episcopalrelief.org
Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization. Its mission is to provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. Its programs benefit millions of people each year in more than 40 countries around the world, including in the United States. www.irusa.org