Since the year began, the issue has rocked the Jamaican media and public. There are some secrets, in a small society like ours, that everyone knows about but refuses to talk about. However, the time for denial is over, as the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) comments in this powerful statement. The time for talk is over too. The Church, civil society and Government need to gird themselves, in this New Year, to take action and specific measures to PROTECT THE CHILD.
Meanwhile, the annual National Prayer Breakfast took place this morning, under a cloud. Keynote speaker Reverend Burchell Taylor of the Bethel Baptist Church called for a recognition of “the immeasurable worth and sanctity of human dignity” and justice. “When anyone suffers, we all suffer,” said Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, urging all Jamaicans to be “agents of change for the better.” More words, hopefully leading to action. Here is WROC’s Statement:
January 19 2017
Thank God! The Secret Is Out
A Statement by the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC)
Coming on top of the continuing evidence of increasing crime and violence within our communities across Jamaica, including domestic and gender based violence, the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) is, like so many Jamaican women and men, well beyond outrage and disgust at the evidence of alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy within the Church. It is a betrayal of trust by someone our children trust. It is a betrayal of trust by a religious institution they trust.
The latest example receiving media attention highlights the core ethical issues of the abuse of power and the treatment of the vulnerable. It implicates not only one denomination but the whole Church, which is sworn and duty bound to nurture and protect. The Church has been found wanting. The abuse of power and trust by some religious leaders is a tragedy that has undermined its mission to promote the wholeness of life for all, especially those most vulnerable because of poverty and social exclusion.
Now that the scope and breadth of this crime is coming to light, we must all liberate ourselves from the burden of secrecy and shame in relation to the crime of sexual abuse. We all should have passed the place of ignoring, disbelieving, minimising, secreting; of silencing or blaming the victim or survivor. Rather than the usual reaction of resignation and fatalism that is too tolerant and accepting of this evil behaviour and corrupt abuse of power, we must assume the moral imperative for action. We must grasp in the current situation opportunities for transformation. This requires several measures, among them the following:
- The Church as a whole must move immediately to develop in a consultative manner and pass into Church policies measures that safeguard boys and girls against sexual abuse. Background and police checks, training on child protection laws and institutions must become part of the operational procedures within the Church.
- The establishment and strengthening of mechanisms for collaboration on addressing sexual abuse by the State, the Church and other civil society interests must be developed to address sexual abuse and gender based violence. Protocols and procedures must be developed and implemented with the same vitality that is seen where the church acts as an intermediary between the police and persons accused of criminal activities.
- The Church must report all allegations of child abuse and establish an environment for survivors free from shame which only prolongs the abuse.
- Collaboration among churches must be strengthened towards providing opportunities at all levels for clear and ethical analyses of abuse and exploitation. The mandate of the Church
to stand with the vulnerable means the Church as an institution must protect vulnerable persons including the children, elderly, and persons who seek out Church staff for counselling or to have corporate worship. This is in contrast to the recent Jamaica Gleaner report where at Sunday worship, persons alleged to be abused by a pastor were mentioned in prayers as “those on the other side of the situation”.
- Civil society must collaborate to support those victimised and to monitor the implementation of measures for stamping out the corrupt use of power whether in the state, church, community or family.
- This must be done with clear principles that repudiate abuse, violence and disrespect of others. While we understand anger and outrage, we condemn the use of violence even against abusers and alleged abusers. We urge all Jamaicans to utilize the justice system and report all cases of child abuse, and allow the police and legal bodies to do their jobs.
WROC continues to provide counselling and to offer to young people in particular, opportunities to gain skills and increase their capacity to empower themselves to lead productive lives.
Please contact Nikeisha Sewell Lewis at 929 8873/ 861 3986 for further information