Today, in accordance with my commitment to ensure that every area of our existence is safe for our children, I have decided to put pen to paper to do this series. This is an enlightenment series, which main aim is to prevent abuses of children. It is a cardinal belief for us in child protection that enlightenment is superior to enforcement. Enforcement deals with cure, while enlightenment deals with prevention. ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ says the English proverb. According to Fredrick Douglass ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’
Please note that I do this series today both as a specialist and an insider. I worked in the children department of my religious place of worship for close to fifteen (15) years. I know the laudable measures that are put in place to protect children and I think I have an idea of one or two things that may be done to improve on the protection of children.
Permit me to reiterate that I will be leaning on my expertise as a child protection expert today and my experience within the children department of a religious place of worship to hold this very important discussion with you.
Why should the religious places of worship take deliberate and meaningful steps towards child protection? Well, I think the answer to this question is found in the principle that the number one responsibility of a primary and secondary caregiver is to protect the children under their care. I mean the number one responsibility of parents and guardian is to protect the child. Once the protection of the child is not guaranteed, training or parenting cannot take place. Do you know why? Abuse changes everything about the child. Abuse of any form is a distraction to the spirit, soul and body of the child. Abuse is a jealous phenomenon, which takes up the whole of the child and gives him/her no room for any other thing except fear, intimidation and broken hearts. This trio is too much to bear for an adult, not talk of children and their fragile minds.
Please note that as it is with parents and guardians, who are primary caregivers, so it is with secondary caregivers either as individuals or organisations. Therefore the number one responsibility of a children department of a religious place of worship is not to teach children the tents of their faith, but to protect them. As matter of fact, protecting the children from all forms of abuse is a proof to the children that the faith, they are being taught about take their protection into consideration.
Until children are protected in tangible terms through the instrumentality of a child protection system, they find it difficult to release themselves to their environment and it is therefore impossible to get the best out of them.
Another point, why we must hold this discussion is that we are living in a strange world today, where our children seem to be under siege on all sides. A recent United Nations survey on violence against children says, ‘never in the history of our world has the children been under the kind of siege and abuse they are today. ‘As far as the agents of abuse are concerned, the religious places of worship are not sacred grounds. When I use the phrase, ‘agents of abuse’ I refer to those who deliberately abuse the child out of weakness or wickedness and those who abuse the child out of ignorance. The people in the latter category are higher in number than the ones in the former category. Another thing about the people, who abuse the child ignorantly, is that in most cases they mean well and the kinds of abuses they perpetrate are though lethal but very subtle. Subtle abuses are not easy to detect and they are not less destructive. Those who abuse the child ignorantly strike daily but those who act out of weakness or wickedness strike less often. Pathetically, it is the our practice here to focus more on and raise alarm on overt cases of abuses perpetrated by abusers, who act out of weakness or wickedness at the expense of covert abuses perpetrated by the ignorant abusers. Unfortunately, whether a child is under abuses under the hands of the former and the latter categories of abusers, the impact is the same spirit, soul and body on the child.
Lastly, child protection has become a matter of best practice in terms of necessary skills when it comes to handling children either as a primary and secondary caregivers. Religious places of worship must not be left behind in this new and laudable global move to protect our children. Failure to think this way opens children to abuses under their care and becomes a distraction to their mission, integrity and credibility. The recently cases of child sexual abuse linked to the Catholic Church is an eloquent example of the point I am trying to make.
Therefore in perilous times like this, vigilance must become the strategy of liberty for our children. The antidote to abuse is to create a culture of child protection. Culture, which refers to values are not created in one day. It is established through the instrumentality of a child protection system anywhere and everywhere children are gathered. It is important to note that Child Protection Systems work by a well-articulated Child Protection Policy, carefully designed according to the needs of the institution which seeks to use it to protect children.
In this series, I will discuss in clear details on how places of religious worship can establish and sustain a measurable child protection system. I will break them down in question format that I believe the leadership of the places of religious of worship and their followers must ask to create a better children department, where we can collectively vouch for the safety of our children.
I charge you to join me here tomorrow as I begin to share these ten (10) questions you must ask to be sure your children are protected within the confines of the children department of religious places of worship.
Thank you for visiting today. I look forward to seeing you here tomorrow. I charge you today to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…