Statement on recent sexual and gender based crimes involving men of faith, sent by email and published on social media, by the interim coordinator and management committee of We Will Speak Out SA.

“Everything was based on religion; he would refuse to do certain things if he felt something was not righteous in the eyes of God.” (A friend of murder accused Sandile Montsoe, quoted in The Star).

When she first met the man who was to become her alleged killer, Karabo Mokoena is said to have been attracted to Montsoe because he was ‘a man of God’. Pastor and televangelist Omotoso’s women supporters continue to call him ‘daddy’, after his arrest on charges of sexual violence.

We Will Speak Out South Africa is very concerned about these examples of men who claim allegiance to the Christian faith that are being accused of sexual and violent crimes against women. We believe that that these actions contradict the values of human dignity of all, as created in God’s image. The Gospels report that Jesus treats women with the utmost respect, and condemns all inhumane acts against them. It is troubling that those accused of these acts are not being held accountable by other Christians and church leaders.

WWSOSA calls on all faith communities to recognize that professing a faith does not provide immunity from sexual and gender based violence. There can be no biblical justification for such actions and being silent about it will not make it go away. We call on all faith leaders to be vigilant, to avoid the temptation of patriarchal patronage and to hold each other accountable. Where such things happen, the truth must be spoken, so that lives may be saved.

And we say to church women: do not be intimidated by those who claim to be your ‘shepherds’ and ‘fathers in God’. Jesus warned us to distinguish between true and false prophets: “By their fruits you shall recognise them” (Matthew: 7-15). Those whose violent actions destroy lives, who impose their lusts and violate the dignity of women, must be exposed for what they are.

We Will Speak Out South Africa, is a coalition of over 100 members, churches and organisations working towards ending sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) from a faith perspective.