March 28, 2016
The role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa
As delivered in New York on March 28 2016

Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

Security Council Open Debate on Women, peace, and security: The role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa

28 March 2016

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to thank the Angolan Presidency for convening this particularly important Open Debate on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa.

Women are drivers of development and human flourishing in multiple fields: in the family and faith communities, in socio-cultural initiatives and humanitarian efforts, in education and health care, in mediation and preventive diplomacy, in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without the contribution of women.

Sustainable development goal 16 aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” In many countries in Africa, in particular in the Great Lakes Region, “peaceful and inclusive societies” are still a distant dream. Women can greatly contribute towards realization.

Thus the Holy See expresses its appreciation for the initiatives promoted by the Security Council and Governments to raise awareness and arrive at a fuller recognition of the vital role of women in preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacekeeping missions and peace-building processes. This recognition, however, must be fully translated into action in order to unleash skills and capacities that allow women to bring order out of chaos, community out of division, and peace out of conflict.  Their special gift in educating people to be more receptive and sensitive of the needs of others around them and beyond is crucial in conflict resolution and in fostering post-conflict reconciliation.

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to pay special homage to the women who have had profound and lasting effects on the lives of millions of people and on the development of nations through their selfless and long-term work in education, healthcare and values formation among the young. These women, even in the most difficult circumstances, distinguish themselves for their bravery, constancy and dedication. Women and girls who have become victims of rape and other forms of violence during conflicts find security and understanding in the institutions run by these women, more often than not by women religious.

Their spirit of sacrifice for the good of others bring some of them to death. My delegation feels duty-bound at this moment to remember with gratitude and sorrow the four Missionary Sisters of the Charity Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda, and Sister Judit from Kenya, who were massacred by cowardly fundamentalists on March 4 in Aden, Yemen. They devoted their lives for poor and elderly women, a dozen of whom were also killed with them, while some sources claim that the terrorists who kidnapped the Indian priest Father Tom from the same institution crucified him on Good Friday.

Pope Francis has prayed that “this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.” There is no greater sacrifice for peace and reconciliation than to lay down one’s life for it. May their blood these be seeds for a peaceful and reconciled Yemen!

Mr. President,

The Holy See has been very attentive to the inspiring work of African women in defending the voiceless, in preventing the outbreak of communal violence, in caring for the victims of conflicts, in reinforcing fragile peace, in fostering human dignity and fundamental human rights.  Through various initiatives, the Holy See aims to consolidate their tremendous contributions to build peaceful and inclusive societies.  The rise of more and more African women to high political and diplomatic spheres can greatly help Africa find answers to the problems that until now have kept it from sharing fully the fruits of development and the dividends of peace.

Education has been key to this empowerment. If women are to become prime drivers of sustainable development and peaceful societies, ensuring that all girls and women have access to education is indispensable. Improving access to education for women will not only redound to a fuller realization of their potentials and greater professional opportunities; it is also a key to better educated future generations capable of ushering in and maintaining just and peaceful societies. I am proud to say that the Catholic Church in Africa is the leading provider of quality education for all, ensuring to the best of its possibilities that no woman or girl would be left unschooled, preparing them to become dignified agents of their own personal flourishing and active protagonists in building strong families and peaceful societies.

Sadly, for far too many women, it is still a steep uphill struggle to emancipate themselves from situations of marginalization, violence, abandonment and exclusion. The world today continues to be confronted with various old and new forms of violence directed against women and girls, in particular the use of rape as a weapon of war during conflicts, the abuses in refugee camps, the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, forced abortion, forced conversion and forced marriage. Instead of being eradicated, some of these acts of violence have re-emerged in even crueler forms, constituting some of the most horrendous violations of human rights.

Mr. President,

The obligation to put an end to these barbaric acts against women and girls is incumbent upon every one of us, upon every Government and in a particular way, upon this Council.

Thank you, Mr. President.