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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

11th June 2014

#TimeToAct: Catholics building a better future

Opening Plenary of the Experts’ Day at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London 11 June 2014

As the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict unfolds, I am delighted to give voice in my blog to a story from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last week at Vatican Radio, a panel discussion showed that religious networks have a huge role to play to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. This testimony is about victims, their fears and dreams, and the value of the work of Catholic networks on the ground to provide witness, support, and rehabilitation. This is a real story, though names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Espérance Mugomoka is sixteen years old. She lives in Ibuga, a camp for internally displaced persons in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Espérance spends her mornings at the Jesuit Refugee Service training centre, where vocational courses run alongside literacy and numeracy training.

“I have really enjoyed the activities in the centre here. Being able to earn a little something, for example, means I’m able to buy better clothes for my son”.

Her son Antoine is six months old. She does not know his father, who raped her last year while she was searching for food. A group of girls left the camp to find wild vegetables in the fields. When two men surprised them, Espérance was not able to run as fast as the others.

“Here in Ibuga, even after four years, I cannot really say I feel safe”.

Despite repeated displacement, Espérance was determined to continue her education. She was still in primary school when the pregnancy caused her to drop out.

For families struggling to get by, the education of girls is seen as a less profitable investment as compared to that of boys. Once girls become mothers or suffer the harmful effects of sexual violence, they often have no choice but to leave school prematurely.

“Here in the training centre, I’m also learning to read and write, at last. I find it so interesting. I’m really eager to learn more. For example, once I have improved my literacy, I would like to join the tailoring classes. My aim, one day, is to have my own business”.

“My hope is to build a better future for him. I want to provide my son with the opportunities I never had. I believe that he will have the chance to finish school. That is the dream I’m working towards”.

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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