Safeguarding: the new evangelization

 

Sr. Jane Nway Nway Ei from Myanmar, in the Province of East Asia, arrived in Rome in September 2018 to commence the two-year Licentiate in Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University. She graduated in June 2020 and, on return to her province in September, will work with the province safeguarding team and support the work of the diocese to develop their child protection and prevention programs.

 

How has this course changed your understanding of safeguarding?

I came to realize that safeguarding is part of an integrated journey from the intellectual level to the heart level. It is not merely about what we learn and apply, but it is something that must be lived, something that touches our very heart. It is a journey that must begin with personal conversion. I now understand safeguarding as mission; it is the new evangelization of these times.

What are the challenges to implement safeguarding in Myanmar?

The law protects children in Myanmar, but the implementation of these policies has proved counter-cultural as there continues to be a strong belief that those in positions of authority must be obeyed. Because of this, children have often found it difficult to disclose abuse. Nor do people understand that abuse is not just sexual and that it can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or even occur through the use of pornography. We must promote the use of non-violent parenting styles and ensure that those involved in children’s ministries do not physically discipline or abuse them. Implementing this new understanding will mean a new way of living in our communities—one with a zero-tolerance attitude towards abuse.

You spent five months on an internship in the Diocese of Limerick, Ireland. What did you learn from this experience and their approach to child protection?   

The abuse crisis in Ireland was huge and caused the Church and society to open up, face the challenges, work together and learn from the experiences. In the Diocese of Limerick, I witnessed how their approach to safeguarding is underpinned by teamwork. I saw how everyone is willing to take responsibility and play their part: the bishop, the safeguarding director, the priests, the team, the parents, the community as a whole, all work together. Everyone is equal. I came to understand how if just one person fails, the whole structure can be affected. This collaborative approach is very life-giving. I saw how a Church that was almost dead can show signs of life again.

How can Myanmar learn from the abuse crisis in Ireland?

In Myanmar, there is still much to do to acknowledge the abuse that has been done to children. We still need to embrace the pain. In Ireland, when victims spoke up, people listened. However, our reporting system in Myanmar is very poor, and the voices of victims have not been recorded. There is so much we don’t know. We do have statistics about child labor, but we don’t have those for child sexual abuse. We can no longer live in denial. We must listen to abuse victims and offer proper support and accompaniment to the abused and the perpetrator. Like Ireland, we must encourage survivors of abuse to speak out and teach them that they are not victims.