Formation to prevention in Mahagi

Our confrere Peter Ekutt, Delegate for Child Protection in Congo, offered training for 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi, he tells us about this training.

For three days, 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi came to live a formation experience in the cathedral parish around the bishop on the occasion of the celebration of the Day of Consecrated Persons. The Bishop himself gave the first conference on some of the measures to be taken as a religious in the diocese. Then, I was able to lead a day of conferences and sharing on “the integrity of the ministry and sexual abuse as a risk factor”.

Peter inviting participants towards the end of the session to take some time to think about victims.

Report on the proceedings

First, I presented the integrity of the Ministry and the issue of sexual abuse as one of the factors that threatens that integrity today. I began by showing the participants why sexual abuse is on the front page today in Pope Francis’ pontificate. Then I developed the different risk factors that can facilitate abusive behaviour. I also presented the different forms of abuse. Then we focused our attention on several points: the physical consequences of sexual abuse on minors; the method that predators use to establish their control over minors; the distorted ideas (cognitive distortions) that predators use to abuse minors; the attitudes to avoid when talking about sexual abuse; and the measures to take to protect the child. Finally, I have shown that the struggle belongs to all of us, so as to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.

In the middle of the conference, we had workshops, based on a text – a case study from South Africa. The reactions in the groups were very positive from participants.

I also invited an employee who listens to minors who are victims of sexual harassment in schools to share his experience with us. He encourages young people to get tested for HIV/AIDS in our youth centre. This father spoke about the fact that most of the infected young people are girls between 11 and 22 years of age and this leads us to believe that there are many cases of sexual abuse around us even if we don’t hear about it. The statistics provided by this speaker touched the participants. The fact that this testimony and report were given by a father added weight to the conference. This sharing experience was very practical and touching. It made us think and reflect.

We finished with the video on sexual abuse: “A doctor to save women”, followed by a sharing on the video. No one had seen the video before, and it was a good information and documentation for the consecrated ones. The sharing was superb and good reflections came out during the sharing.

Together we prayed the prayer of the delegate.

Together we took the prayer of the delegate for the protection of minors.

In general, the consecrated persons greatly appreciated the initiative of giving this conference. They were very happy that we were talking about this but also very shocked to see that finally we can talk about something they consider to be TABOO. They were anxious to know whether the bishop agreed because they were afraid to touch their ” taboos “. It is fortunate that we were able to talk about this scary taboo as people, and especially children, die in the silence of the taboo.

Participants read the documents already published on the subject.

Many wish that this could also be offered in schools and for catechumenate courses. But you have to take it slowly. I am already happy to have been able to speak to the consecrated persons of the Diocese of Mahagi.

It is nevertheless worth noting some strong resistance from the side of male religious who thought that this was a criticism of the Church and in particular of the priests to the benefit of the Sisters. But I had experienced this before and it doesn’t bother me. It is a defense mechanism to avoid facing reality. This did not prevent this session from being a success and a great experience for all participants.

Peter Ekutt, M.Afr.

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