In her opening remarks at the South African workshop, Muriel Mafico, UNICEF South Africa deputy representative, said, “Faith communities are critical in promoting child safeguarding, providing guidance, spiritual inspiration, psychological support and social cohesion.” She underscored UNICEF’s longstanding partnership with the WCC in the context of UNICEF’s 75th anniversary and expressed hope that this would be deepened going forward.
Participants at the ongoing workshops in South Africa and Zimbabwe include church leaders, theological educators, child rights activists, school teachers, school chaplains and others. The workshops seek to enhance the participants’ knowledge of child safeguarding within the faith-based sector, facilitate the development or updating of policies and procedures relating to child safeguarding and promote active interaction among the different categories of people who interact with children in church settings.
Rev. Maudy Machanyereyi, from Africa University, who is attending the Zimbabwean workshops, declared that the training was timely as the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdowns had resulted in a spike in the number of children who are abused. According to her, “I have become more aware of the critical role that I need to play to mobilise my faith community and beyond to invest in protecting children.”
One of the South African participants, Archbishop Mbulelo Dyasi, South African chairperson of the South African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS, expressed his gratitude to the WCC for the workshop. “These engagements increase our effectiveness in child safeguarding,” he said.