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INTERVIEW with Thomas Sukotriraharjo sscc

“Creating a culture of protection and prevention”

Recently, Thomas Sukotriraharjo sscc and Jean Blaise Mwanda sscc took part in a meeting regarding creating a culture of protection and prevention in regards to children and vulnerable adults which was held in Rome. It was organised by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG). We invited them to answer some questions on this important issue, for sharing with our readers.


What, from the meeting you attended, would you highlight regarding culture of child protection and prevention in the Church, and how does it apply to us as a Congregation?

The theme of the meeting, which took place in Casa Fraterna Domus, rome between 6th to 10th November 2023, was “Creating a Culture of Safeguarding”. It was attended by about 140 participants from 90 different Orders and Religious Congregations. During the workshops the participants learned about the various forms of abuse (sexual, psychological, spiritual, power, and conscience) that happen or can be experienced within the Church and in the various religious institutes in it. Besides learning new things, we also listened to the experience and wisdom of the participants.

The aims of the workshop were:

  • To provide formation about the next steps in creating a culture of safeguarding through protection and prevention.
  • To provide information about the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, including religious sisters and young men in formation.
  • To listen to victims and survivors of abuse, who share their stories.
  • To learn about prevention of abuse: formation, recruitment, the important of policies, and the implementation of policies.
  • To explore ways of responding to issues related to abuse; including responding to allegations; the place of civil and canon law; the care of those affected by abuse; and communication with others.


We are all on the same journey, but maybe in different stages, or in other words, we are on different stages of the same journey. We are learning, and by our learning we should bring about a change of culture regarding these issues. Abuse in all forms is a reality in our world, in our Church, and in our religious Congregations. Abuse will never be eradicated from our world and so we share in the task of prevention and protection. It’s important for us to share about our journey as the members of the Church and as religious. There were three things that required discussion during the workshop, namely: the issues, the challenges, and the concerns.

  • The issues: how to prevent the different forms of abuse from happening. This is done through proper prevention and discussing safeguarding from the very beginning of the Initial Formation (IF) Process.
  • The challenges: how to deal with cases in the Congregations that have occurred in the pass and in the present.
  • The concerns: safeguarding is important and necessary. Are we all clear about that?

There is talk of abuse in spiritual accompaniment - what is meant by this in concrete terms?

Spiritual abuse happens when someone uses spiritual or religious beliefs to hurt, scare or control someone. It can involve someone forcing a person or child to participate in spiritual or religious practices, when they don’t want to. It can be done for example by superiors, formators or spiritual directors etc.

In your opinion, what, from this meeting on ‘the culture of protection and prevention’, can be applied to an Asian context?

Every country has a particular culture, and Asian countries have their own culture too, and their own way of approaching some issues, especially regarding the cases of abuse. We can apply the culture of protection and prevention in an Asian context in some of the following ways:

  • Engagement with people in leadership who are responsible for safeguarding in their institutes.
  • Support leaders who have to deal with allegations of abuse, and the consequences that it has on the victims, the accused, and the institute.
  • To provide formation experiences that involve listening to and engagement with victim/survivors.
  • To raise awareness of and a commitment to ongoing training needs.
  • To establish a network of co-operation with other leaders.