Adventist church takes a stand against violence, abuse

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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THE Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica has called on its more than 300,000 members, other church groups and the wider society to take a stand against violence and abuse, especially against children and adolescents.

“The victims should be our priority. It cannot be about saving face, it's about saving lives,” Dr Lorraine Vernal, family, women, child and adolescent director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said yesterday.

She was addressing members of the press during the launch of the 'Year of Child and Adolescent' at the church's regional headquarters in Kingston yesterday.

“Let us be intentional as parents, teachers and authority figures about learning the difference between abuse and discipline. We must break the silence about all types of abuse and report them, even if the perpetrator is a relative, pastor or community leader,” she is quoted as saying in a release from the church.

Vernal stated that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is committed to making its church a safe place for children and adolescents.

“We take seriously our responsibility to minimise the risk of child sexual abuse and violence against children in the congregational setting. As leaders we must see attacks on our children as evil and so we must live ethically and pay attention to making our churches and other institutions safe places for the young,” Vernal said.

As a proof of its commitment to child protection, the church hosted a child protection training seminar for more than 50 individuals from its five conferences, churches and schools. The release said this is in order to implement a Child Care and Protection Act, laws related to children and youth, as well as the policies outlined by the Adventist Risk Management.

Director of children and family programmes at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, Audrey Budhi, in her address to the media, commended the effort of the Adventist Church and pledged the agency's support.

“...We want to be able to go back to the days when the church was the main part of raising a child. We need to go back and take back our communities and villages. Our aim is to help build a Jamaica fit for children and the church family and community are integral in this regard,” Budhi said.

Activities to mark the Year of the Child and Adolescent, according to the release, include hosting a convention for children and adolescents, the observance of an “ENDITNOW” day, a children and adolescent week of prayer, and a foster care and vulnerable children weekend.

One of the main objectives of the year is to ensure that individuals involved with children participate in screening and training activities as prescribed by the Adventist World Church and the Government of Jamaica, the release continued. The church said it expects that as a result of the year's activities, there should be a reduction in the level of child abuse and related offences and an increase in the care and protection of children and adolescents.

“Victims need to know and believe that they don't deserve to be ill-treated,” Vernal emphasised. “We say let's end violence and abuse against our children and adolescents. We must end it now!”

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