CAR Church Admits Sexual Abuse Cases, Sets Up Commission to “sensitize Church leaders”
By Jude Atemanke
January 17, 2020
| Children in the Central African Republic being sensitized on the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable persons.|
Photo by Public Domain
The Church in the Central African Republic (CAR) has admitted to incidences of sexual abuse of minors and has responded by taking steps toward the safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons by setting up a commission to examine cases of abuse.
“The situation of minors remains worrying, especially with the economic crisis that the country is going through,” the Secretary of the Commission on Minors in the CAR, Fr Blaise Narcisse Kougomatchi has been quoted as telling the news agency adiac-infos in an interview Wednesday, January 15.
Referencing the minors within the context of economic hardships, Fr Kougomatchi added, “This situation makes them vulnerable and easy to fall into the trap of sexual abuse if they find themselves in the presence of a predator who sees an opportunity to exploit this.”
He continued, “Our country is going through a great crisis right now. Many of our children have become vulnerable, and there are some who have been abandoned or have lost their parents and are left in the sites of the homeless displaced.”
“Since the beginning of this crisis and especially in the face of this situation, the fate of children remains worrying and we draw the attention of the Executive to help these children who have lost their parents and who are at the mercy of nature,” Fr Kougomatchi observed.
The setting up of the commission, the cleric said, is meant “to prevent and sensitize Church leaders on the issue of sexual abuse.”
“The Catholic Church in the Central African Republic is presently working on a document that will punish anyone involved in the sexual abuse of minors,” the Secretary general revealed.
But more specifically, Fr Kougomatchi disclosed, “this decision taken by Church leaders in the country follows the suspicions of rape that splashed over the NGO Caritas last year.”
The setting up of this commission follows the sexual abuse scandals allegedly committed by a Belgian priest in the CAR when he was the national secretary of Caritas Central Africa in November 2019.
This situation forced several partners of Caritas CAR, the development and humanitarian arm of the country, to suspend their financial aid.
“Sexual abuse of minors never leaves a person indifferent, especially when it is caused by a clergy leader,” Fr Kougomatchi observed.
He explained, “That is why the Catholic Church leaders have become aware of the seriousness of this issue and have taken it upon themselves to work on the issue of sexual abuse of minors based on the annotations that the Church has already given on this since 2001.”
The steps the Church has taken to safeguard minors are “to strongly reaffirm that its mission today is one of prevention, raising awareness but also and above all the promotion of the protection of minors and vulnerable persons.”
“On the side of the Church, we will do everything to punish all those who engage in these practices of sexual abuse of minors,” he stated.
The decision of the Church in CAR is in line with Pope Francis’ directives to Church Leaders around the world to step up efforts toward safeguarding minors and vulnerable persons and to report any cases of abuse.