Children denounce abuse rally
Hundreds of children and adults alike from the Southern Regional Mission Council of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands gathered at the Ridgemount United Church in Mandeville on Sunday for the Children's Synodical Rally geared towards safeguarding the future of tomorrow.
Themed 'Am I Safe with You?', children and adults from the United Churches in Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Ann, Trelawny, and Clarendon marched through sections of the town shouting, 'Say No to Abuse'.
The programme saw the reintroduction of the United Church Child Care and Protection Policy, and according to general secretary of the council, the Reverend Norbert Stephens, the policy was implemented to protect children and their rights and promote violent-free communities.
" ... There are 18 provisions under this policy, and one of these provisions states that in every church there will be a childcare protection officer. We are also going to be training you, as children, in terms of what you should be looking out for and what is in your best interest. We want to train the teachers as well, and also the parents who come under the umbrella of the United Church."
Chairman of the council, th Reverend Dr Gordon Cowan, sent a special message to the children and every citizen of this country.
"I stand on my own behalf; and on behalf of the church in this region to say to you, yes, you are safe with us. The church ought to be that place in which you know you are safe, and as we register our commitment to making you feel and know that you are safe with us, we are sending a signal all over Jamaica that every person must know that it is their responsibility to keep children safe."
The issue of child abuse has been a topical one for years, and while the children's agencies have managed to make headway, the number of abuse cases is still increasing.
It is for this reason that senior registration officer at the Office of the Children's Registry and guest speaker at the rally, Andre Bailey, made a call for persons to come forward with the information they have.
"Today, we just want to support the United Church in this children's rally, encouraging the members to speak up and to speak out against child abuse, while encouraging the children to report to a responsible adult any forms of abuse that is laid (towards) them or their friends."
He continued, "There is still a problem with reporting, people are afraid to report for various reasons, but we guarantee 100 per cent confidentiality. We are interested in the information you have, to help the children. We encourage the initiative by the United Church and we are happy to be a part of any other initiative by the church, public sector or private sector."