By Samuel Waweru and Rose Achiego
The Vice Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) – Commission for Social Communications, Rt. Rev. Peter Kihara, has said child abuse is a reality that the Church must confront. He says the Church has to respond to rising cases of child abuse and cannot afford to run away from its responsibility in ensuring that children are safeguarded.
“We must accept the reality of child abuse,” said Bishop Kihara. “We cannot run away from child abuse cases. We must face this reality. If any of our Church personnel is involved, it means the Church has to respond accordingly. You cannot protect the Church by hiding.”
Bishop Kihara reiterated the importance of having child protection policies in the dioceses, saying this has now become part and parcel of all project implementation and even in discussions with donors. He called for establishment of child protection desks in every diocese, urging dioceses to come up with their own child safeguarding policies.
“Child protection policies are now part of donor funding requirements,” said Bishop Kihara. “Dioceses that do not have their own child protection policies should use the KCCB policy. I am glad that we now also have the AMECEA Child Safeguarding Standards and Guidelines.”
The bishop said there is need to conduct trainings at the local diocesan level, especially for those who are handling children.
“All the people that are involved with children need to be introduced to the child protection policy to know and understand their responsibility towards the children under their care,” said Bishop Kihara. “Child protection seminars should not be confined to the cities. We should go to the grassroots, in the dioceses – hold trainings there so that we can have an open discussion on the way forward.”
Bishop Kihara was addressing Diocesan Communication Coordinators, Radio Station Managers and Missionary Communication and Media Directors during their training held at Our Lady of Africa Pastoral Centre in Mombasa from July 1st – 4th, 2019.
He said the Church appreciates the need to communicate more so as to reach more people, especially through modern communication technology such as social media.
“We have come far as a Church in Kenya,” said Bishop Kihara. “Today we have more Catholic radios in Kenya and through them we can reach more people without having to physically go out to the parishes, especially in the remote regions of the country. We need to work together as Catholic media and know that unity is strength. It is the only way that we will go far as Catholic Media. We must also embrace social media in our work. Evangelization through social media is necessary even as we think of how to enhance our slow communication media such as print.”
In his welcoming speech, the Archbishop of Mombasa, Most Rev. Martin Kivuva, told Catholic Communication Coordinators and Station Managers that they are the voice of the Church and are Christ’s agents, and when they do their work well, they are fulfilling the mandate of Christ who sent his disciples to take the good news to the whole world.
“You represent the voice of the Church in your mission of telling the story of what is happening,” said Archbishop Kivuva. “You are the Abraham of today pleading for his people in Sodom and Gomorrah. You are standing at the centre to speak on behalf of the poor. Today the media is playing an important role in our country. It is increasingly exposing financial scandals that we would never have known about.”
The Archbishop urged Catholic media to work together and engage secular media because they stand to gain more if they embrace each other.
“Our radios should look for ways to network,” he said “If one radio station has a good program, this can be shared by other radios instead of producing similar programs. Sharing and exchanging programs makes it easy to operate and save on production costs.”
Archbishop Kivuva called on Catholic Media Houses to embrace green energy to save on electricity bills and avoid unnecessary power interruptions and surges that could end up destroying their equipment.
“Green energy such as solar is clean and affordable,” said the Archbishop. “It is costly to run a station on grid electricity.”
On his part, the National Executive Secretary of the KCCB – Social Communications Commission, Bro. Elias Mokua, called on Catholic Media to avoid glamorizing issues of child abuse as this could end up escalating incidences of abuse. He called on Catholic Media to embrace a social justice dimension when reporting on issues of child abuse, saying there is need to consider human dignity, report only the important facts and avoid unnecessary drama.
Bro. Mokua called on the Church to promote the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, saying trends have indicated that when it loses it’s meaning, more child abuse cases are reported.
He said there is need for Catholic Media to embrace new ways of communication and promote convergence.
“We need to diversify our strategies for evangelization,” said Bro. Mokua. “We cannot rely on only one platform. We need to centralize our information sources and content and ensure it is shared through all our platforms. We must promote media convergence so as to reach everyone wherever they are.”
He emphasized on the need to adopt social media, especially in reaching out to young people.
“Social media is important to reach young people,” said Bro. Mokua. “As Catholics we cannot wait for our young people to be evangelized by other people with the wrong kind of messages. Many groups, including terror groups, are reaching them through social media to radicalize and recruit them. We cannot only wait for Sundays to reach them. We must reach them where they are.”