BSC KUCHING: On 26 January 2019, Blessed Sacrament Church (BSC), organized a talk on “Awareness for Child Protection: Protecting and Supporting Children” from 1.30pm-5pm. It was held at the BSC Hall and was packed with church leaders, members of BSC ministries involving young children and the youth, and some members of the community.

The talk marks the first of several projects earmarked for 2019. It was initiated by BSC Parish in response to the recent news reports of sexual abuse scandals that had occurred in US, Europe and South America.

Besides BSC Rector, Fr. Felix Au, the other Speakers were from Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS). They were Dr. Angie Garet – Vice President and trainer for SWWS; Rose Bennet – Para-counsellor for SWWS crisis phone line (CPL); and Gill Raja – Trainer for counselling course for CPL Para-counsellor.

The Speakers: (L-R) Fr Felix Au, Gill Raja, Dr Angie Garet and Rose Bennet

The afternoon began with an opening prayer by Fr. Felix Au. He extended a warm welcome and thanked all the participants for their presence. In his opening remark, he expressed his dismay over the sexual abuse scandals that had happened around the world.

He quoted Mark 9:42 that said, ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung round their neck and they were thrown into the sea.’

The Bible verse reflected his serious view on the issue as well as the urgent need to create a safe environment for our children and the vulnerable. Furthermore, he disclosed Archbishop Simon Poh had urged parishes to look into it.

Fr. Felix outlined the main initiatives that were already mooted by the Parish Pastoral Council in September 2018, to be implemented by BSC in 2019 to tackle the issue. The first was to organize talks for different groups in BSC to promote awareness and education on protecting and supporting children (Child Sexual Abuse [CSA]).

Other key initiatives would be to set up structures and policies to create a safe and secure environment for children and to provide counselling support to help rehabilitate victims. He hoped after the talk, with their newly acquired awareness and knowledge on this issue, the leaders and members in BSC would become more proactive; actively participating collectively in combating it.

In addition, he spoke of the formation of a pro-tem committee comprising lawyers and assessors to handle sex abuse victims – a pioneering move in RC Kuching Archdiocese. However, he urged patience from all parties as the committee is still working to find its footing.

All policies would need to eventually be aligned to the official ones of the Archdiocese when they become available.

Active participation from the floor at the Q & A session

Gill Raja then gave an overview of the talk. The topics presented, discussed and covered were: Misconceptions and Reality; Q & A; Video clip on CSA; Emotional impact and priorities; Ways to help – Prevention; and Handling disclosure and knowledge of systems in Malaysia.

Some key highlights of the talk were:
1. Children find it hard to tell their problems.
2. Adults don’t take time to listen or believe.
3. To be able to differentiate safe and unsafe touches and situations.
4. Article 19 – Protection from Abuse of the Convention on the rights of a child.

Packed Hall at BSC

At the end of the talk, Fr. Felix reiterated once again the importance of collective responsibility and the setting up of structures to make BSC a safe place for the young, and thanked everyone for attending. Thomas Ting, Chairman of BSC Parish Pastoral Council then presented a token of appreciation to Dr. Angie Garet.

All participants were then encouraged to sign a ‘Declaration and Pledge to Safeguard our Children and the Vulnerable’ form.

By Joseph Wong
Photos: Stephanie Chua