Pacific church leaders vow to keep children safe

Pacific church leaders have endorsed a plan to ensure that children are kept safe in a region undergoing massive economic, health and climatic issues.

The Pacific Child Protection and Church Safeguarding Framework will ensure that regional churches have policies which protect children. It will also provide training for church workers on how to approach issues involving children.

Church leaders from 10 countries supported the move during a virtual meeting yesterday (Thursday).

The framework was developed after the Pacific Conference of Churches General Assembly in Auckland in 2018 noted the increased violence against children.

A UNICEF-funded study in Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands provided details for formulation of the child safeguarding framework.

More than 700 cases of child abuse were reported in Fiji in 2019 and other Pacific island countries reported similar increases.

“Churches must be places where children are safe, loved, protected, nurtured and empowered,” Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend James Bhagwan said.

“At the same time, churches must speak out against any form of abuse of children as unacceptable in God’s sight. Child abuse must be called out for the sin that it is.

“And church workers – whether they are ministers or social workers – must be trained in how to identify and address the abuse of children, based on a solid framework with Biblical, legal and internationally-recognised values.’’

The framework was formed after two months of scoping in three countries and developed over a six-month period before further consultations with stakeholders.

Biblically and theologically sound, framework resources will be developed in the first quarter of 2021 before training is conducted for trainers and the programme is rolled out across the region.

“We hope that this framework will ensure that our children, our future grow up loved and protected,’’ Bhagwan said.

It is expected that theological colleges around the region will take on the framework as part of their syllabus from 2021.

The Pacific Church Leaders Meeting which endorsed the framework comprises heads of Christian faiths throughout the region. Its three-day meeting was held for the first time via Zoom and involved leaders from Australia, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kanaky (New Caledonia), New Zealand, n Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and West Papua.


Photo file Pacific Council of Churches