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From Commitment to Action: Barbadian Religious Leaders work on Protocol to Prevent and Protect Children from Child Abuse
In 2013, one hundred and sixty (160) new cases of sexual abuse were reported in Barbados and this involved one hundred and sixty-eight (168) children. 12.5 % of these cases were boys while 87.5% were girls, mainly from the 12-16 year old age group. According to the Child Care Board, the agency responsible for Child Protection in Barbados, these children were raped, sexually molested, exposed to sexual acts or inappropriately propositioned for sexual favours. One of the factors that has fuelled the problem of Child Sexual abuse is the culture of silence around it and the failure of some caregivers and professionals to report it.
In light of this, as part of its ongoing efforts to address this problem, the Child Care Board used the opportunity of World Day of Prayer and Action for Children to bring together approximately 40 religious leaders from various Christian denominations to a symposium to examine a Protocol for church leaders on reporting and preventing Child Sexual Abuse. This was done with support from the UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area.
During the opening ceremony, the Minister responsible for Social Care, the Honorable Steve Blackette, called on the leaders to break the silence on Child Abuse. “We need to reclaim our children from whatever negative forces that overshadow their well-beings.” he said. “There is nothing more troubling than a child being abused, and that abuse is not reported.”
Family Advocate and Senior Pastor of Sanctuary Empowerment Church, Reverend Suzette Husbands also reminded the leaders of the prominence placed in the Bible by Jesus on ensuring that children were protected. According to her, “Jesus’ protocol regarding the treatment of children was simple: 1) facilitate children to know Christ; 2) create environments for them to be safe and protected and 3) punish those persons who abused them.”
UNICEF Deputy Representative, Muriel Mafico called on leaders of faith-based organizations to “continue working together – across religious faiths to raise awareness about children’s rights and to strengthen systems that protect children.” The protocol for faith-based organizations on “preventing, responding and managing incidences of vhild abuse” was well-received by the leaders with some minor recommended changes. When implemented it is expected that children who attend churches across communities in Barbados will be better protected from abuse and neglect.