Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Thursday addressed the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, highlighting the role of faith leaders and communities in their work against this sort of injustice, and their support for victims of this crime.
“The unbelievable surge of sexual violence against both women and men in parts of our world is manifested in the shocking facts well documented in this Conference,” he said. “I doubt though whether even the most graphic accounts of this evil are capable of conveying the sheer horrors which are generated by sexual violence in conflict and warfare. The damage which is done to the human dignity of the large numbers of victims of sexual violence is so radical and so permanent that it defies description.”
The three-day global summit, which concluded Thursday in London, was the largest ever gathering brought together to confront the issue of sexual violence in conflict.
Every human activity, the cardinal said, is subject to moral principles and judgment, even in war, if it is not to lose its truly human character. “Sexual violence is always a crime,” he said. “It is always an immoral act.”
Cardinal Nichols went on to highlight the importance of human sexuality as “a strong and vital component of our humanity and of each person’s nature.”
“The exercise of that sexuality, in sexual relations, is something that touches the deepest aspect of our identity and personhood. A fundamental aspect of the Church’s teaching about sex is that sexual acts must always take place within the context of authentic freedom. This is because, properly understood, human sexuality has the capacity to unite two people, body and spirit, at the deepest level, in a completeness of self-giving that has within it the call to a permanent commitment between them and which, of its nature is open towards the creation of new human life.”
This teaching is relevant today, he said, because it shows “that there is no place in sexual relations for brutality, aggression or any kind of de-humanisation of a person.”
Acknowledging the work of religious sisters and others who work in areas where such violence takes place, Cardinal Nichols went on to say that “the Church wholeheartedly backs every initiative to prevent sexual violence being perpetrated against anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances.”
The cardinal went on to speak on the dignity of every person which “arises from within their nature and that nature is most clearly understood as deriving from its Creator, from the mystery of God…The violation of that bodily integrity in sexual violence is therefore a most fundamental denial of human dignity and a most gross breach of a person’s human rights. It is a crime which ought to be eradicated with all vigour.”
“Sexual violence as an instrument of warfare and conflict is a deep wound on the body of humanity,” Cardinal Nichols concluded.