A recent update from Fr. Abraham Kochupurackal CSC (Diploma, 2023) in northeast India highlights the extent of the work to be done in building a culture and practice of safeguarding. The size of India and the diversity of its peoples offer many challenges and opportunities:
Since June 2023, I have been the director of the Moreau Institute of Integral Training (MIIT) in Shillong, a training centre for priests and religious, educators, and men and women in leadership roles in the church and faith communities. The total population of northeast India is 46 million, and people practice diverse faith traditions and cultural practices.
I soon realized that there is no one trained to prepare safeguarding personnel in the northeast. Happily, the local ordinaries have been more than gracious to invite me to raise awareness on this topic among the clergy and religious working in their dioceses. As part of Phase I of the training program, I have conducted one-day seminars in 11 of the 15 archdioceses and dioceses in the northeast region.
It was shocking to learn that child maltreatment, including sexual abuse, is common in the region. The causes include economic poverty, dysfunctional families, low status given to girls in society, lack of education, single parenting, large families, access to the internet in villages, school drop-outs, child labour, sexual taboos, and the prevailing culture of silence.
Phase II of the program focuses on training core group members for dioceses and congregations in the region to prepare child protection policies for their dioceses and institutions. Dioceses will be helped to set up safeguarding offices with competent persons to respond to allegations of child abuse. Training of educators and formators will help them educate and empower students and make them agents of prevention in their schools, homes and neighbourhoods.
Since my return from Rome, my conversations with Archbishops, bishops, Major Superiors and educators have only confirmed that my Diploma studies at the IADC will make a difference for children in northeast India.