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Bishops in Tanzania Formulate Child Safeguarding Policies amid Increased Cases of Abuse

Flag of Tanzania. Credit: Public Domain

Catholic Bishops in Tanzania have formulated policies aimed at safeguarding children in the East African nation amid increased reported cases of child abuse.

In a Wednesday, May 12 report, the Director of the Pastoral Commission of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Fr. Florence Rutaihwa, says that in the last 25 years, child abuse “has grown to become a serious national problem.”

“In order to offer lasting safety and well-being to children, the Catholic Church in Tanzania has developed a pastoral action that will help create a safe environment for our little ones,” Fr. Rutaihwa has been quoted as saying in the news report by Agenzia Fides. 

He adds that the pastoral guidelines, which have been published and disseminated to various Catholic communities across Tanzania “provide indications against all forms of abuse and neglect of minors, offering a comprehensive approach for the protection of children, reaffirming the necessary and full collaboration with civil authorities throughout the country.”

“The fight against child abuse requires collective efforts,” Fr. Rutaihwa says and adds that for this reason, the leadership of the Church in Tanzania collaborates with the government and international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in offering seminars.

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The TEC official explains that the idea behind the seminars is “to conduct awareness campaigns among religious leaders, influential people and political leaders to promote positive norms and values that protect children and vulnerable people, creating social transformation and forming consciences.”

According to the Relief Web, “nearly 3 in 10 girls and approximately 1 in 7 boys in Tanzania have experienced violence prior to the age of 18 in school settings.”

Officials of the UN agency indicate that physical violence that includes corporal punishment and sexual violence are the most common cases of abuse reported in the country.

“Such cases of abuse in school settings are increasing in Tanzania,” they indicate in the March report. 

In the May 12 report, Fr. Rutaihwa says that in some parts of Tanzania, “harmful local traditions are followed, such as female circumcision in some tribes, or that of early marriages: there are girls forced to marry.”

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“The exploitation of child labor is widespread in some areas, as is the practice of flogging children as a means of disciplining them, while in some sectors of society and politics there is still no full conviction to completely prohibit the practice of physical violence,” the Tanzanian Priest says.

Amid these challenges, TEC’s Director of the Pastoral Commission says, the leadership of the Catholic Church in the country “is close to children who are victims of multiple cases of abuse, be they physical, emotional nature or of abandonment and marginalization.”

Meanwhile, members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) have concluded a two-day workshop on child protection. 

Giving his opening remarks at the workshop that brought together child protection officers from across the Southern African country, the Secretary General of ZCCB, Fr Cleophas Lungu, said there is need for pastoral agents to change their mentality and become less defensive when it comes to cases of abuse. 

“A Priest wanting to defend the church, safeguards the reputation of a [fellow] Priest, Sister or safeguards the name of the Catholic church. The focus according to Pope Francis is the safeguarding of the victim, the children,” Fr. Lungu said Tuesday, May 11. 

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The Zambian Cleric further urged transparency in dealing with cases of child abuse suing, “We should not fall prey to the temptation to sweep the dirt under the carpet.”