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Archbishop of Canterbury's video message for World AIDS Day

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has recorded a video message for World AIDS Day in which he talks about the part sexual violence plays in the spread of HIV, calling it "one of the most shameful facts of our day."

Williams recorded the video message during a recent visit to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been at "the epicenter of a great deal of appalling violence in recent years," he says in the video.

He talks specifically about the use sexual violence as a tool of war and something that is used to "humiliate and subdue others," he says.

Williams highlights the crucial role that the church has played in supporting survivors of such abuse, and in combating the stigma they often face in their own communities as a result of this violence.

"Trauma is something which cannot be overcome overnight but when people feel they've been abandoned by families, by communities, because of the shame and stigma of HIV/AIDS, the church in this part of Congo has been there for them," Williams said. "For these people, who have been abused systematically, been raped, violated, abducted often at the youngest of ages – for these people, the church has been the family that mattered."

The video can be viewed here. A press release from Lambeth Palace is available here.

The full transcript of the video is below:


This is north-eastern Congo. It's an area which has been at the epicentre of a great deal of appalling violence in recent years. Peace is slowly returning but not always returning very quickly to the minds of those who have suffered most.

The conflict in Congo has made it hideously clear that sexual violence is one of the great tools of war in our age; one of the great means by which people humiliate and subdue others. The women in Congo, especially in this part of Congo, have suffered dreadfully because of this. And the connection between sexual violence of this kind and the spread of HIV/AIDS is one of the most shameful facts of our day.

Trauma is something which cannot be overcome overnight but when people feel they've been abandoned by families, by communities, because of the shame and stigma of HIV/AIDS, the church in this part of Congo has been there for them.

For these people, who have been abused systematically, been raped, violated, abducted often at the youngest of ages – for these people, the church has been the family that mattered. The church has been the community that has given them back the dignity that they need. The church has given them the hope that they need.

As we seek to confront the terrible scandal of sexual violence as one of the causes of HIV/AIDS, let's hope and pray that communities like the churches here will continue to fight as hard as they can against the stigmatising and marginalising that so reduce human dignity.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity of listening to the experience of women here – grateful, though it has been hard to hear. I hope the world will be able to hear what is being said here and to see what is being done here.

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