The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is calling on its more than 300,000 members, other church groups and the wider society to take a stand against violence and abuse of all kind especially against children and adolescent.
“The victims should be our priority. It cannot be about saving face, it’s about saving lives,” said Dr. Lorraine Vernal, family, women, child and adolescent director for the church in Jamaica as she addressed members of the press during the launch of the Year of Child and Adolescent at the church’s regional headquarters in Kingston on April 24, 2018.
Dr. Lorraine Vernal, family, women, children and adolescent director for the church in Jamaica deliversthe main address on April 24, 2018. Photo by Nigel Coke
“Let us be intentional as parents, teachers and authority figures about learning the difference between abuse and discipline,” said Vernal. “We must break the silence about all types of abuse and report them, even if the perpetrator is a relative, pastor or community leader.”
Vernal stated that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is committed to making its church a safe place for children and adolescents. “We take seriously our responsibility to minimize the risk of child sexual abuse and violence against children in the congregational setting. As leaders we must see attacks on our children as evil and so we must live ethically and pay attention to making our churches and other institutions safe places for the young.”
Figures from the Office of the children’ Registry shows an upward trend in the amount of cases reported for children (mainly female) who were sexually abused for the period 2007- 2015. Interestingly, the figures moved from 121 in 2007 to 3,806 in 2015, and according to police statistics, sexual abuse of children is now one of the fastest growing crimes in Jamaica.
As a proof of its commitment to child protection, the church hosted a child protection training seminar for dozens of administrators, pastors, teachers and guidance counselors from across its five conferences, churches and schools on the island. This was in order to implement a Child Care & Protection Act, laws related to children and youth as well as the policies outlined by the Adventist Risk Management, explained Vernal.