Towards a culture of Child protection-AJU

By Kudakwashe Matambo

The recent developments in Catholic Church are shocking- a series of reports on child abuses-mostly from members of the clergy- have emerged and the Church has worked a great deal in putting into place policies and practices to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.

Educational and formation institutions are top of the targeted institutions for these policies and Arrupe Jesuit University is showing signs of practical determination to promoting a culture of Child protection and Safeguarding.

The university recently held an insightful two day training workshop for its staff and students titled Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection workshop facilitated by various experts in Child Protection. 

Arrupe University’s efforts follow long last Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar’s (JCAM) efforts to set up a commission that ‘commits to creating a culturally sensitive and contextually relevant safeguarding environment to ensure a generation free from abuse.’

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, AJU’s Vice Chancellor Fr Kizito Kiyimba SJ, said“the Church has not been a safe place, we need to repent and show our willingness” to protect children.

In the midst of the Church’s ‘unfortunate recent history’, Fr Kiyimba SJ strongly believes that “Africa should show the world how to take care of its own children.”

“As Africans we need to create a humane environment because this is a continent that is blessed with so many children and also with a lot of people in vulnerable situations because of economic situation.”

The university has already started the process with a Child protection and Safeguarding policy draft now in place. 

The workshop was a response to the call made by the university’s Chancellor and President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, Dr Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ to do something ‘concrete to realise the desires and wishes of the Jesuits worldwide and the Jesuits in Africa to create a culture of safeguarding and protection of children and vulnerable adults.’ 

Sr Anna Mandeya has been appointed as the university’s Child Protection Officer.

Presenting at the same workshop, ChildLine Organisational development and Quality Manager, Ratidzai Moyo said “Child protection is about change of attitude, we need to be motivated to bring up the children in a safe environment.”

She revealed that according to recent survey done by her organisation on reported cases through the Helpline (116), children aged 13 to 15 report the most with 63% admitting to have experienced violence. Girls are reported to experience more sexual violence and physical violence for boys and young men (who also have high numbers of suicide cases.)

Following reports emerging from a dark history of child abuses, in March 2014 Pope Francis created The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors propose the most opportune initiatives for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults and to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches.

“The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.”- reported on Vatican News.

The Holy Father has emphasized the primary importance of listening to victims /survivors and having their life stories guide the response of the Church in protecting minors from sexual abuse.

At the AJU workshop two young ladies, Natasha and Primrose shared the pain of their experiences, experiences of child sexual abuse that led to both falling pregnant. 

One had to do an abortion and unfortunately introduced to sex work whilst the other still suffers the burden of raising her little daughter when she herself is still a young woman. 

Also presenting at the workshop was Fr Lawrence Daka SJ who co-chairs the JCAM Child Protection commission with Frs. Joachim Zoundi SJ.

The commission aims to promotes, within the communities, formation houses, ministries and governance of the Society, a consistent culture of protection and safety for minors; that is, a normal, habitual way of living, relating, working, in which those whom we serve, particularly children, always feel respected, safe, and loved.

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