Integrity of ministry : Session of Ouagadougou

In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 17 members of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) met from 30 January to 10 February 2017 for a training session in French on the protection of vulnerable children and adults. The participants were the delegates of our missionary society from all over Africa and Latin America. They work in their country of mission to ensure that places of mission (parishes, pastoral centers, missionary projects, training centers, etc.) are safe places for vulnerable children and adults. Some confreres involved in formation and some in responsibility of governance joined the meeting. The training was organized in the framework of the partnership signed by the Center for the Protection of Children (CCP) of the Gregorian University and the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr.). The training is co-facilitated by Stéphane Joulain and Bernard Ugeux, members of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa and Sr. Mary Lembo, CSC, member of the PAC in Rome. An identical training in English had already taken place in July 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Testimony of Musangu Betu Sylvain

When I was chosen to represent Mali in this training, I was very curious to know the content. I am one of those who think that the Society is doing a little too much. While I was aware of the immorality of sexual abuse of minors, I wondered why the confreres should be prosecuted for an act committed 20 to 30 years ago. Why condemn only the priests and where is the responsibility of the alleged victims? Several questions of this kind in favor of the abusive priests trotted in my brain. Another colleague told me, “You go to that training and then you will be hunting for the confreres.” I think it was appropriate to organize this training for the Delegates to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults so that they are able to answer the questions of the confreres wisely. Many confreres do not sufficiently master this problem and the position of society about it.

The presentations, the different readings, the studied cases and the sharing in groups opened my mind to understanding the scope of the problem. Grand was my astonishment to notice the complexity and severity of the subject. Now I am convinced that abusing a minor is a miserable thing to do to a child. Many are unaware of the consequences of the abuse and the trauma it generates if the victim is not treated in time or if he does not have the capacity to resilience. A training like this helps to understand why some victims, after so many years, are asking for justice to be done. One can not remain indifferent to this tragedy. The only legitimate feeling for the victim is compassion and the search for restoration. So I understood why the trainers kept reminding us that our main mission was to “protect minors and vulnerable people”. This task is not only the responsibility of the Child Protection Delegates, but of every pastor who loves justice, his neighbor and the respect for the dignity of the human person. Jesus our master, seeing the injustices in his society, took the preferential option for the weaker. The weakest in our society must find the shadow of protection among us pastors. It is more than urgent to commit ourselves at the pastoral and spiritual level to eradicating this scourge that is plaguing our Church and our living environments.

Musangu Betu Sylvain, M.Afr.

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