WILPF Advocacy Documents

North America

Position on the Church Massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, the United States

17 June 2015
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We, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, continue to be outraged by racially motivated hate crimes committed across the globe that fuel conflict and war. The stubborn and persistent racism in the United States continues to be one of the elevated priorities to address in our advocacy. We are saddened and frustrated that this continued racism claimed the lives of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina. WILPF International and WILPF US stand in opposition to all racism, oppression and injustice in this and every nation across the globe. WILPF envisions a transformed world at peace, where there is racial, social, and economic justice for all people. All people deserve the right to equally participate in making the decisions that affect them. On the evening of June 17, 2015, during a prayer meeting, Dylan Roof made a tragic decision for the members of Emanuel AME Church that resulted in the death of nine innocent African American worshipers.

As we have learned from the Emanuel AME Church’s website, the history of African Methodist Episcopal Churches in the United States began in 1787, when Richard Allen and others of African descent withdrew from St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia because of racist treatment and restrictions placed upon the worshipers of African descent. After Allen left St. George’s Methodist Church, he and his followers purchased a blacksmith shop for thirty-five dollars. From the blacksmith shop they worshipped and helped the sick and the poor. The blacksmith shop was converted into a church. They called the new church Bethel.

In 1816 Allen called together sixteen representatives from Bethel African Church in Philadelphia and African churches in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey to meet in Philadelphia. The movement blossomed and the African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, with Richard Allen as its first Bishop. The AME Church has never strayed from the course charted by Richard Allen. The church is wedded to the spiritual doctrine of “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother.”

The history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reflects the development of religious institutions as safe havens for African Americans in Charleston. In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1965 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning “God with us.”

We mourn the loss of those slain on June 17 at their Bible-study meeting: Emanuel AME Church ministers Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was the senior pastor of the church and also served as a state senator, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.; DePayne Middleton Doctor – who was studying to be a minister; as well as Sexton Ethel Lee Lance; church members Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd and Susie Jackson; and Myra Thompson, wife of Rev. Anthony Thompson, Vicar of Charleston’s Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church.

As we in WILPF begin the second century of our advocacy to end war, we will reflect on the lives lost in this tragedy and honor their legacy with dignity and respect. This act on June 17 was not the act of a single madman. It is, sadly and outrageously, merely one act in a history of systematic racist violence and terror against those who are Black or Brown or Asian or Hispanic or Native American, or Latina/o in this country.

We, the members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, acknowledge the history of African American churches being attacked as one of crimes against humanity. We also acknowledge the fact that systemic racism and oppression are the roots of all war across the globe. We call for an explicit action to combat racism nationally and globally. We emphasize the need for immediate action to end all forms of violence and discrimination against those who are seen as different. We call for stronger efforts on advancing racial, social and economic justice to end war. There can be no peace without freedom, and no freedom as long as racism exists.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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