, 19 October, 2019 / 2:13 AM
Against the backdrop of accusations of child abuse by clerics in a number of countries across the globe resulting in, among other declarations, an “all-out battle” against the abuse of minors by Pope Francis, the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) has reached out to the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) in a recent meeting that concluded with recommendations, which if realized, the safety of children in the landlocked Southern Africa country will be guaranteed.
AMECEA safeguarding Advisor, George Thuku shared with ACI Africa Friday, October 18 an overview of the deliberations of the meeting that was held in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka from October 10-14.
“Bishops need to organize ongoing formation workshops for priests on child safeguarding, and make such programmes mandatory,” the Lusaka meeting recommended, a guideline that will see Bishops of the various dioceses in Zambia decline to exempt priests from attending planned sessions on child safeguarding.
The Lusaka meeting, according the report availed to ACI Africa, “resolved to sensitize every clergy in Zambia on the need to safeguard all children noting that children are gifts from God to the Zambian Church.”
Considering the need to diversify safeguarding awareness beyond diocesan structures to the grassroots, the Lusaka meeting “further agreed to support the Bishops to implement safeguarding measures in all the parishes and Church ran institutions as envisioned in the Zambian Conference of Catholic Bishops Policy on Child Safeguarding.”
In May 2019, the Nairobi-based AMECEA Secretariat launched the AMECEA Child Protection Standards and Guidelines booklet, described as “a framework for policy development that will help AMECEA Conferences develop their own policies based on local contexts.”
Attended by representatives from AMECEA Secretariat, ZCCB Secretariat, and clergy from the nine dioceses in Zambia, the Lusaka meeting acknowledged the fact that there is the need for the Zambian Church “to take a decisive action against any form of abuse of minors; that no one was immune to abuse of a minor and therefore safeguarding was everyone’s responsibility.”
The meeting also “prioritized the need to increase reporting of abuse within the church by developing a confidential reporting mechanism that protect the survivors of abuse as well the whistle blowers.”
The recommendations from the Lusaka meeting were made to Local Ordinaries for their consideration “as they met to discuss safeguarding in the region,” the report shared with ACI Africa reveals.
For instance, the meeting recommended that “Bishops be close to their priests as their immediate collaborators, making it easier for priests to confide in them as their fathers; Bishops consider the appointment of the Diocesan Child Protecting Officers and Committees as urgent,” and the latter case, the meeting recommended that “the Child Protection Officer needs to be a priest.”
The meeting also recommended that Bishops in Zambia “restructure offices and confessionals in churches and institutions into glassware establishments.”
“Bishops should establish a confidential reporting mechanism that allows for anonymous reporting as well as protection of the whistle blower,” the Lusaka meeting recommended.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is organizing a conference to sensitize Christians on clerical abuse in relation to children.
“Much has been done in the Catholic Church to make children safe since the clergy abuse scandal broke – and much still remains to be done,” a poster publicizing the event reads.
“While it is accepted that child abuse within the Church has a global reach, many Catholics continue to engage the issue with passive resistance. This response silences further those most harmed,” the organizers of the conference have noted in their publicity poster.
Slated to take place on October 26 in Pretoria, South Africa, the conference will be facilitated by Fr. Hugh Lagan, Society of African Missions (SMA) who is a clinical psychologist based in the United States of America and is working with Church leadership in southern Africa to develop support services.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa