Children Animators in Kenya Discuss Need to Enhance Child Safeguarding

PMC and PMS diocesan Directors during Training in Nairobi, Kenya: October 30, 2019
Credit: ACI Africa

At a recent meeting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that brought together diocesan Coordinators of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) and Pontifical Missionary Children (PMC), the need to enhance the protection and safeguarding of children in the Church featured prominently, with the clergy and religious in attendance admitting cases of child abuse in their country and a Bishop calling on adherence to child safeguarding policies.

“It is a sad thing, to hear children who look up to us clergy for guidance and also models that we can turn against these children who are very vulnerable and then we assault them,” the PMS director and executive secretary of the Bishop of Kenya’s Kitui diocese, Fr. John Wambua Kivosyo told ACI Africa Wednesday, October 30 on the sidelines of the their four-day meeting.

Hinting to the reality of child abuse in Kenya, Fr. Kivosyo said, “One of the things that saddens me is that some abuses happen and some people try to cover. When we cover up, we hurt these children more because they continue being abused in silence.”

The imparting of gospel values needs to be priority of children animators, Fr. Kivosyo noted and expressed keenness on knowing what those assigned the duty of animating children in Church pass on to the children placed under their care.

Monitoring what children animators teach is important, Fr. Kivosyo said and explained, “because some people are teaching their own wisdom and these may impact negatively (on) the children as they are not teaching the (Christian) doctrine.”

The National Director of PMS in Kenya, Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio told ACI Africa that while he has seen children in Kenya feel safe in the Church, cases of abuse cannot be entirely ruled out.

“We don’t want to deny that there is (child) abuse in the Church but we want to say that a few elements might destroy that safety,” Fr. Luchidio, a priest of Kakamega diocese said.

He added, “As a Church we are trying to put safety and structures that ensure all children that come to the Church have a safe environment, to play ... and do what they can do for the good of the Church.”

On her part, the National coordinator for PMC in Kenya, Sr. Esther Kimani looked beyond the abuse of children within Church premises to the phenomenon of human trafficking, which she termed “a reality and a concern.”

“We are fighting strongly and we are creating awareness so that they (human traffickers) know we are not going to keep quiet whether they kill us or not,” the PMC coordinator stated.

On the child abuse in Kenya, Sr. Kimani referred to an existing policy set by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

Anyone who deals with children has to sign the document stating that “he/she will not abuse any child and will prevent the abuses and will report if there is abuse,” Sr. Kimani disclosed.

The KCCB Chair of PMS, Bishop Joseph Alessandro of Garissa diocese told ACI Africa that the conference of Bishops in Kenya does take the matter of child safeguarding seriously and raises awareness through seminars and workshops during which the content of the booklet on child safeguarding procedures in Kenya is explained.

“We know we need to have people prepared and not to repeat mistakes other countries have done,” the Maltese Bishop said.

“We all have to abide with this policy of protecting children,” Bishop Alessandro concluded.

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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
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