In his Motu Proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (7 May 2019), Pope Francis declares that abuses of whatever kind committed against minors and vulnerable people inflict “physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.” To ensure that such phenomena “never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission.” Francis’s call echoes his previous declaration that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.” (“Letter to the People of God,” 20 August 2018).
The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) is organising an international colloquium dubbed “African Child: Promoting a Consistent Culture of Protection, Care and Safeguarding in Church and Society”. This colloquium will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from April 14-16, 2020.
The event will bring together not only participants from the Society of Jesus but, laypersons, church leaders, and representatives from other Religious Orders and Congregations from across the continent.
The three-day colloquium aims to: develop a concrete response to Pope Francis’s clarion call to “say ‘never again’ to every form of abuse”; contribute to the global “task regarding all of us as the People of God” to create a safe environment for all, especially children, in Church, family and society; present current research, thinking and best practice in the field of child protection and safeguarding from multiple perspectives in the context of the Church, family and society in Africa; and convene practitioners and experts, alongside theologians and other scholars, to explore together the challenges, tasks and commitments presented by sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults for the Church, family, and society in Africa.
Participants will explore, analyse and discuss issues related to the phenomenon of clergy sexual abuse through four critical overarching lenses: o Justice for victims and survivors; o Prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people; o Structural enablers of abuse in the Church, family and society; and o Conversion of ecclesial and societal institutions and structures needed to deliver justice and ensure prevention.
This colloquium will open a new path of multidisciplinary inquiry and constructive conversation by academics and practitioners about the global phenomenon of clergy sexual abuse in the context of Church and society in Africa. This colloquium offers an opportunity for formation and capacity building for the Christian community, leaders and pastoral agents. The papers presented will be edited into a single resource volume and made available for publication to inform further research, study, formation and practice.
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