The Juvenile Protection Network has been established in the Central and Eastern European Churches to exchange experiences and best practices in the prevention of sexual violence and victim assistance. said.
The Jesuit announced that the network’s creation was the result of an international conference on the protection of minors in the church in Central and Eastern Europe in September 2021 in Warsaw under the slogan “Our common mission to protect the children of God.” .
“The purpose of this conference was to establish cooperation and contacts, exchange experiences and see where we are in different countries. Then we decided to continue cooperation by sharing good experience and knowledge on the protection of minors from sexual violence,” he said.
Jesuit explained that a survey was conducted among the conference participants, and it was one of the questions whether the participant wanted to join the network. “The answer was yes,” Fr Żak said.
He said that in addition to Poland, representatives of Eastern and Latin churches from Central and Eastern European countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Romania also joined the network. , Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. Several churches from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, also joined.
“Churches in this region are at a very different stage when dealing with the issue of sexual exploitation of minors by clerics. We can say that they are churches at different speeds,” Fr Żak said.
He explained that most of the clergy in these countries are only at the beginning of the fight against this problem. “In the churches of Latvia and Estonia, there is no information about such crimes among the clergy, and yet, for example, they face great pressure from the media, which reports on the problem of churches in the country. Poland and Germany are facing this issue. Or in France, “he said.
According to the Jesuits, Latin churches in Slovakia and the Czech Republic are just beginning to address the problem. “We are in the first phase of learning to understand that this problem belongs to them in general,” he said.
He said that an organization similar to the Polish Center for the Protection of Children at the Catholic University of the Greek Catholic Church in Lviv, Ukraine, has already been established, called the Center for the Dignity of Children. “The head of this center has conducted a thorough study of sexual violence in Ukrainian society. He added that the church in Hungary has also done a lot in the last two years.
The director of the Center for Child Protection noted that the organizers of the network have created special groups on the MS TEAMS platform, which will hold meetings dedicated to the protection of minors. “These will be meetings dedicated to the prevention of sexual violence, cooperation and the accompanying victims, the legal aspects of the protection of minors,” he said.
“The next webinar will be about cooperation with victims. I also expect that after Pope Francis’ amendment to the Vos estis lux mundi motu proprio, scheduled for June, there will be a need not only for canonists but also for an interpretation of this document.” is responsible for negligence, “he said.
The father added that the presence of refugees from Ukraine, including a large number of children and their mothers, made it necessary to address the protection of this group at risk of various crimes, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. “We want to recognize the needs and opportunities of confrontation and share them with churches in our region that accept refugees,” he said.
The director of COD noted that the establishment of the Network for the Protection of Juvenile Churches in Central and Eastern Europe was supported by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. “The head of the papal commission, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, has written to all bishop conferences in the field and to those who have joined the network,” he said.
According to Ata Żak, the creation of the network and the use of the platform can facilitate and facilitate the process of changing the mentality of clergy and believers in the countries involved in the network in order to adequately respond to the problem of sexual violence. . “If there had been such a network in 2013, when I was the CESD coordinator for the protection of minors, it would probably have been easier for us,” he said.