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Second Online Alumni Forum

Today's post is by our Alumni Coordinator, Br. Tony Shanahan, who shares about the online alumni forum held on 5 March.

The sensitive and complex reality of abuse within the family was the subject of the second online forum for IADC alumni on Saturday, 5 March. Some 18 alumni from Europe, Asia and Africa joined presenter Ms. Beatrice Mumbi, Safeguarding Coordinator for the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, to explore some of the challenges.

Beatrice Mumbi reflected on her experiences in an African social-cultural setting. She pointed out the particular difficulty involved in abuse within a family structure, that of “conflicting interests”. The standing within the family of the suspected perpetrator, the desire to maintain family unity, and the strong social value of protecting the family name are some of the factors that can influence cases of this sort.

Having policies and procedures is important, but it is often the implementation that proves difficult. To whom does one report abuse when there is little public trust of the police? The prospect of long delays and corruption in the courts can deter many from even thinking of going to the police.

Group discussion following Beatrice’s presentation touched on some of the same issues in the different social-cultural settings in which alumni work. One sad reflection was that much of society was just as prone to “cover up” of abuse as the church is! Protecting family members, especially certain significant figures like parents, and protecting family name, are values in many societies. Insensitivity to abuse and its effects is often encountered, even on the part of other family members or those from whom we expect more, like police and judges.

Other aspects of society and culture also affect safeguarding. In some situations, poverty can lead to acceptance, even “normalizing”, of abusive treatment of minors. Religious and political sensitivities in the society can make action on abuse very difficult.

Safeguarding work in the face of such challenges is complex. It is essential for the safeguarding worker to have a network of contacts and resources to call on.

Another forum is planned for the first Saturday of May (7 May). Watch this space for further details.