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Meeting regarding the creation of a culture of protection (Rome)

From 6 to 10 November Thomas Sukotriraharjo and Jean Blaise Mwanda took part in the meeting held at the Fraternal Domus in Rome on creating a culture of protection and prevention. The meeting was organised by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) and was attended by 133 representatives of Superiors General, 92 congregations, including 79 religious sisters (51 congregations), 54 religious brothers (41 congregations) and 39 nationalities. The different themes covered were: Listening to our experience, the internet, practical exercises to deal with real-life situations, listening to victims/survivors, concerns, allegations, civil obligations and law, registers and archives, accompanying and managing accused persons.... Language groups were formed of 5 to 6 members, seated at a table. Each was invited to make a presentation from 2 to 25 minutes, followed by a few questions for sharing at the table and then a feedback to the plenarium There was also a question-and-answer session between the participants and the speakers. After 2 days, some of the participants changed tables. This methodology was much appreciated. It enabled everyone to participate and also enriched the discussions at each table, taking into account our cultural diversity and our congregations. One highlight of the day was the encounter with the Lord inmorning prayer and in evening mass, celebrated in different languages (Italian, English and French).

The most interesting theme was listening to the victims. We listened to the testimonies of 2 victims. It was the most powerful moment of the meeting. The whole assembly was very moved and it changed the way we look at the reality of abuse in the church. We understand more this phenomenon from the victims’ accounts and this marks a change of culture. One of the victims said that "the death of the abuser did not erase his power over me". The quality of listening is therapy for me," she added. It means listening without judging, which is the path to healing for victims. Do we have the time to listen to them? What is the support plan for victims? Do we have a protection and prevention policy in our province? Do we have a code of good conduct in our homes and in our apostolic works?

At the end, all the participants made a final declaration committing themselves to working to create a culture of protection and prevention. We must continue to raise awareness and create a network of cooperation with other leaders.