As we focus to protect ourselves against a virus that attacks the
health of so many people, we must not overlook a key project of the
Church and the Society of Jesus: the protection of minors and vulnerable
people. The following article, prepared by the Conference of
Provincials of Africa and Madagascar, describes the commitments made in
this regard on the African continent.
In August 2017, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM)
launched a programme of protection and safeguarding of children and
vulnerable people. The initiative responded directly to the call of
General Congregation 36 on the importance, relevance, and urgency of
child protection in church and society. The primary aim of the programme
is to create, promote, and sustain a consistent culture of protection
across the ministries, communities, and apostolates of the Society of
Jesus in Africa and Madagascar.
Making all the ministries, communities, and apostolates of Jesuits
safe for children and vulnerable adults is a task incumbent on major
superiors, Jesuits, and collaborators. This understanding informs the
two-pronged approach of the JCAM programme. First, it provides training
and formation for the leadership of the Society and designated child
protection officers (CPOs) and, second, it increases technical
understanding and equips CPOs with resources and tools to facilitate
safeguarding conversations and initiatives for Jesuits and collaborators
within their Regions/Provinces.
So far, the programme has organized a series of intense training
workshops for major superiors, CPOs, institutional heads, and masters of
novices. In particular, child protection and safeguarding courses and
training programmes have been integrated into all the formation centres
where Jesuits are formed in the conference.
Arguably the most ambitious initiative undertaken under this
programme is a conference wide study (baseline survey) to identify and
assess the level of safeguarding knowledge, perceptions, attitudes, and
practices in the ministries, works, and apostolates of Provinces and
Regions of Africa and Madagascar, as well as underlying factors which
may enable or hinder a safeguarding environment.
The baseline study was carried out by the Province/Region CPOs. It
covered a total of 61 select apostolic structures of nine Provinces,
Regions, and formation centres that make up JCAM across 17 countries.
These structures included schools, parishes, social centres, children’s
homes/orphanages, hospitals, as well as some ministries that directly
depend on the conference. Over two months, CPOs conducted approximately
65 interviews and participant observation in English, French,
Portuguese, Malagasy, Swahili, and other local languages.