Fight against sexual abuse
Prevention, education, processing—these are the pillars in the fight against violence and sexual misconduct. In its fight, the New Apostolic Church also supports campaigns outside its own ranks, as was recently demonstrated by the District Church Southern Germany.
The set is called Strong-Kids-Box (“Starke-Kinder-Kiste”) and is designed to help pre-schoolers “playfully learn to deal with their own bodies, feelings, and personal boundaries,” explains Jérôme Braun. He is the managing director of Hänsel + Gretel, a German child welfare foundation in Karlsruhe. The children are “strengthened and learn to protect themselves”.
The foundation is not only active in local kindergartens, but also in primary schools. The name of the programme is Really Great (“Echt Klasse”) and aims to familiarise children early on and in a playful manner in how to recognise sexual misconduct and protect themselves against it.
Raising awareness in all age groups
Hänsel + Gretel were able to reach 25,000 children with their Strong-Kids-Box, and about 60,000 with the programme Really Great. And the foundation wants to reach many more. To make this possible, human aktiv, the aid organisation of the New Apostolic Church Southern Germany, donated 20,000 euros last month.
This is just one more step in a long-standing co-operation. Over the years, more than 150,000 euros have been donated. “I think it is extremely important to raise awareness of personal boundaries and prevention for all age groups,” emphasised District Apostle Michael Ehrich. The commitment of his District Church does not stop there.
Voluntary agreement and a certificate of good conduct
The New Apostolic Church Southern Germany refers to its policy of sensitising leaders at all levels as Mindfulness Concept (“Konzeption Achtsamkeit” ). Preventive measures include a written voluntary agreement as well as an extended certificate of good conduct. This applies to all ministers, as well as teachers and other persons who deal with children and young people.
An external lawyer searches for possible entries in criminal records on the basis of the Child and Youth Welfare Act. If there is an entry due to sexual assault, he informs the District Apostle only. He in turn will ensure that the person concerned no longer performs any task within the Church that brings him or her in contact with children or young people.
The Church’s zero tolerance policy
Similarly, the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa presented its policy at the International District Apostles’ Meeting. The policy, which has been in effect since May, sets the framework for dealing with any form of sexual misconduct by ministers or functionaries. The document defines responsibilities, describes preventive measures, installs procedures for suspected cases, and outlines pastoral care for those affected.
The Church in Southern Africa is working closely with relevant professionals and organisations. It is up to the victims alone to decide whether legal proceedings should be initiated. Cases of sexual misconduct among minors are always reported to the police in accordance with South African law.
The culture of “what you don’t talk about doesn’t exist” is unfortunately widespread, District Apostle John Kriel noted at the time. “We do not only have to do something, the people must also know that we are doing something about it!” he stated. And Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider underlined: “The people, our congregations, and all our members are to hear that the New Apostolic Church does not tolerate sexual abuse!”
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