Catholic Bishops of East Africa Commit to Greater Safeguarding and Care for Children, Vulnerable Adults and Survivors

In a press statement read Thursday, July 4, by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), chairman Bishop Charles Sampa Kasonde after the conclusion of the training, the delegates from the region and its affiliate country of Djibouti acknowledged that children and young people make up a significant proportion of AMECEA’s population and the Catholic Church has a responsibility to care for them.

After a three-day training conference for bishops and safeguarding practitioners, (AMECEA), Catholic Bishops have promised among other commitments to strengthen families through the vibrant Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in the region to safeguard children and the vulnerable adults.

“The church will work through Small Christian Communities to strengthen the capacity of families and children and enhance values and morals to ensure everyone’s safety,” Bishop Kasonde of Solwezi Diocese read the statement while flanked by other delegates from the region highlighting that they will strive to continually enhance the capacity of pastoral agents, staff, and affiliates at all levels, including national conferences and dioceses to better uphold the principles of safeguarding.

Aware that the Church has heavily invested in pastoral, educational, health care programmes and other development initiatives for the wellbeing of children, the over 25 delegates underscore that the region is ready to be more committed to preventing, detecting, and responding to all forms of abuses.

In their commitment to offering support to survivors, the Prelates appreciate the effort from Rome to come up with the “Memorare Initiative” which is funds given to assist the local Churches worldwide in training and capacity building in the prevention and protection of children and vulnerable adults and promise that through this initiative, they will “offer care and support through counseling, spiritual guidance, and rescue services.”

Besides, they will listen to survivors, validating their experiences, and ensuring they receive justice and healing to provide therapy and aid in the healing process for survivors of abuse.

For the successful realization of their plans, the bishops promise to review and update the best practices on safeguarding and align to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors Universal Guidelines Framework. At the same time, they said, “We commit to familiarize ourselves with church and civil documents on safeguarding and engage with our communities to promote awareness and education on child safeguarding. This includes workshops, seminars, and informational campaigns designed to foster a culture of vigilance and care.”

The delegates further expressed their concern on how abuse inflicts pain on victims and noted that they “strive to create a safe and nurturing church environment where faith can flourish, aspirations are nurtured, and potential is achieved.”

They urged all community members to join in this crucial mission to ensure a future where children and vulnerable adults are safe, cherished, and nurtured.

The Secretary to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), Bishop Luis Manuel Ali Herrera, who began his mandate this year in mid-March, acknowledged in his address to the participants on Tuesday July 2, that Small Christian Communities (SCCs) which is a small group of Christian believers who meet regularly to share the word of God and help each other grow in faith, is a strong pillar for the AMECEA region in promoting safeguarding issues.

“I am very encouraged that as Bishops you are already doing a lot of work in safeguarding and child protection in your countries…. I understand most of your Episcopal Conferences are doing a lot in training personnel working with children in your institutions. This is a clear indication of your commitment in integrating safeguarding into your evangelization work,” Bishop Herrera who is the Auxiliary Bishop of Bogotá in Colombia shared virtually with the Prelates who were meeting physically at Donum Dei, Roussel House in Karen, Nairobi.

He added that it is “commendable that all AMECEA member Episcopal Conferences have safeguarding offices and that plans are underway to review the policies that are aligned with Vos Estis Lux Mundi (An apostolic letter that established new procedural norms to combat sexual abuse and ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions) and other relevant church documents.

According to the Vatican official, “The visionary leadership in the AMECEA region supported by the church’s structure from the Small Christian Communities to the Conference level, is strategic as families are the foundation for child protection.”

As a commission that was established within the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith Bishop Herrera said it is committed to collaborating with the region in the commendable work through locally-led initiatives and to partner through the Memorare Initiative, (A move that aims to assist and collaborate with local Churches worldwide in training and strengthening the prevention and safeguarding capacities for children and vulnerable adults.)
Source: AMECEA - Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA