Answering the question “what new thing have I learned this week?” for Welcome To My World was easy.
I signed up for a Symposium held by Harvard University and Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities. It was April 8 World Day Symposium on Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. There were so many speakers and opportunities to learn new things. Anyone who is interested can check out the YouTube Channel. I will share some of the main takeaways I found especially interesting.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
This symposium had been about twenty years in the making. It drew speakers from over 23 countries around the world as violence against children is a global problem. It also took faith leaders to come together, as faith has been part of the problem as well as the solution. Lifting the veil of this most difficult subject they felt it was better to stand together than to stand alone. This alone can be considered a miracle as they stood together in spirit and solidarity to have the discussion.
The one thing that really shocked me looking at the figures presented about the prevalence of any kind of violence towards children, sexual, physical, or emotional, was that the top eight countries were African, Zimbabwe leading the field with 76-80% of boys and girls being abused. As this was my country of birth I was horrified, and saddened.
God loves a Broken Vessel; every child houses the Divine
A child needs to feel protected and loved, they need a safe place to grow up into healthy adults. When the home environment, schools or churches are no longer safe places, but places to fear, children have nowhere to go. They are marinaded in ongoing trauma, from which there is no escape. The internet adds yet another layer of abuse to children who have access, as online bullying, stalking and other such evils are perpetrated. Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.
Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.
Standing with Survivors
Not every child who is abused survives. Those that survive carry with them a heavy burden that they need help in healing from. Listen to the voices of children, look for signs as they may well not verbalize but act out. Safeguarding legislation and practices for those working with children will help in institutions, churches, and schools but not in-home and neighborhood environments. The community needs to be inspired to help on the survivor’s healing journey. How can this be done? Faith leaders can decrease the stigma to the abused and welcome them into their communities. They can learn how to help and make resources available for counseling. The sad thing is in many countries including sub-Saharan Africa there just is not the psychological support available.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
JESUS OF NAZERETH
God in the Work, Work in God
There is not very much investment in healing for children or availability of support for survivors. How does the faith community bring hope, honor, and healing into the lives of children? Children carry the damage caused throughout their life, which affects every part of them, and in turn society as well. Jesus blessed the children brought to him, even though the disciples wanted to chase them away. He also said it was better to have a millstone around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to lose their faith. Innocent children need to be protected and loved.
Healing through Art
Another new thing I learned this week, one such survivor Felicia Reed started making fiber art as a means to heal. She now makes the most exquisite Healing Wraps of silk and wool felt with which to wrap people in love, she calls it swaddling. Through the process of creativity, God can begin His work of realigning thoughts and releasing the trauma that is held in the body with His redeeming love. Do check out the CHAW blog and read her story.
Do you know anyone who has had childhood abuse? How can you help and support them? Your voice added to others will also count.Even if you can only pray with compassion, it will add to the prayers to end the scourge of violence against children.