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Catholic Church in Malawi Launches “Epiphany” Initiative to Protect Children from Abuse

Launching of the year of Epiphany at Bangwe Parish in the Archdiocese of Blantyre. Credit: ECM

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) have launched preparations for “Epiphany” celebration, a day that will be celebrated to create awareness on child abuse in the Southern African nation. 

In a Tuesday, November 16 report, the Vicar General of Malawi’s Blantyre Archdiocese who spoke on behalf of ECM appealed to all Malawians to protect children from “from any form of abuse.”

“We need, as a society, to think through in terms of what we’re doing to protect our children from any form of abuse. Every community, on village or Church level, must be sensitized about these issues,” Msgr. Boniface Tamani has been quoted as saying during the November 14 event that took place at Bangwe Parish of the Archdiocese of Blantyre. 

Msgr. Tamani added, in reference to child abuse in Malawi, “It’s sad that some of these issues are happening but never reported because the perpetrators are our relatives; we need to know that we’re protecting wrong people so we need to understand that what is happening is harmful to a child's psychological and emotional being for the rest of their life.”

He further encouraged the faithful to ensure their children are raised in a manner that will transform them into responsible citizens.

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“If children are very well grounded in the Christian and moral values at an early age, they can easily start practicing and get used to what is right and proper before God and it will not be difficult when they grow up,” Msgr. Tamani said at the launch of the Epiphany initiative that will run under the theme, “You will be my witnesses……to the ends of the World.” 

He continued in reference to children, “With strong faith and strong principles, they’ll be able to withstand some elements that may be coming on their way and in so doing the Catholic Church will survive through them.”

Speaking at the same occasion, the National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) said that the Epiphany initiative provides an opportunity for children to showcase their abilities.

“The Catholic Church has this day to give support to the children that they express themselves, especially expressing the fundamental values of human rights of a child,” Fr. Vincent Mwakhwawa said during the launch of the Epiphany initiative that will conclude on Epiphany Sunday, 2 January, 2022.

“So, we want them to express that by participating in the liturgy and life of society through worship and dances because they are part of society,” the PMS official has been quoted as saying in the November 16 report, referencing children.

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Through the activities by children, Fr. Mwakhwawa said, adults will also be taught to respect and value children.

The celebration in Malawi has been coined from the feast of Epiphany, celebrated to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, understood as the manifestation of Jesus to the world.

Reports from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) indicate that Malawi is among African countries with a high rate of violence against children.

In the UNICEF report, one in five girls and one in seven boys in Malawi has experienced sexual violence. Additionally, most of these children have experienced the abuse on multiple occasions.

According to the report, one in three females in Malawi define their first sexual experience as non-consensual.

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“We also know that of those children, a very small percentage will ever seek professional help. 60 per cent of girls and 54 per cent of boys who experienced sexual abuse told someone, and yet only less than 10 per cent received professional help,” UNICEF says in the report.