In Brazil we have grouped together in a structure called the “Cardinal Lavigerie Center” our commitments for Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue. This centre is located at the Catholic University. We organize round tables, exhibitions, conferences, seminars on JPIC ED issues. The prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons is one of the projects managed by the centre.
Last year, after having followed the training offered by the Society of Missionaries of Africa for its Delegates for the Protection of Minors, I returned to Brazil wondering what we could do in practice. The missionary is an apostle who knows how to translate compassion (a feeling) into mercy (a concrete action in favour of the person). I started by speaking openly about it in our parish and also during the retreats and recollections I preach. As everyone feels uncomfortable talking directly about abusers, abusers and abusers, I then started from the biblical story of Princess Tamar who was raped by her stepbrother Amnon (2 Samuel 13). The narrative always has a liberating effect. The result was explosive: tongues untied to reveal the Tamar and Amnon of today who frequent our churches.
During the annual retreat of the Mass servers of our parish last year, we spent a few hours with the story of Princess Tamar. These teenagers stepped into the story with passion, emotions, revolts… From that moment on, I created the Princess Tamar Project, a campaign to raise awareness and protect minors and vulnerable people against sexual abuse. This year the Sisters of Saint Joseph in contact with this reality wished to participate in this campaign to protect minors. I also spoke about sexual abuse at the annual retreat of the clergy of a diocese. The priest in charge of the diocesan Social Action and who is also president of an association for life (ProVida) was passionate about the Princess Tamar Project. All these positive and spontaneous reactions led to the organization of a seminar on the prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons from 17 to 19 September 2018 in Salvador, an initiative of the Missionaries of Africa in Brazil.
We were 14 participants representing institutions or associations that would form a network of collaboration: the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Pastoral Ministry of the parish of the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Action of the Archdiocese of Salvador, including one representative of the Pastoral Ministry for Minors and another of the Youth Pastoral Ministry; the Children Pastoral Ministry, the ProVida Association, and the Social Sac Association. The seminar took place in 3 moments:
- Personal sharing on the reality of sexual abuse. This moment quickly became emotional. Compassion is indeed a necessary force in this commitment to life.
- Training: understanding this evil of sexual abuse. Our basic text was two of the booklets published in Brazil on the subject.
- Define concrete actions of the Princess Tamar Project.
Our objective: a prevention campaign. We have prepared printed, audiovisual material based on the culture of northeastern Brazil. These materials will be used during meetings organized in schools, parishes, neighbourhoods… The network’s member associations have the capacity to mobilize people and enter all spheres of the Brazilian society. We will visit institutions where there are minors to ensure that they are safe places. The seminar developed a whole programme of actions.
The Princess Tamar Project is therefore underway as a collaborative network for the protection of minors and vulnerable people in northeastern Brazil. We will need financial support to carry out this awareness and protection campaign. We count on the generosity of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa and the confreres. We have decided to meet twice a year to evaluate our commitment and to participate in the training necessary for our mission.
Moussa Serge Traore, M.Afr.