The church should be the safest place for children

 
girl-on-swing April 1, 2017 by Peter Kelso

My hope for the future of the church

Have you ever noticed how easily children believe in the wonder of faith?

Children seem to have a natural curiosity about God. They are drawn to the stories of Jesus, the Christmas narrative, the image of beautiful angels bearing good news, the spectacular public miracles, the sight of a man walking on water, the idea of healing the sick and good people being rewarded.

Children easily accept the supernatural and genuinely believe they have a Father in Heaven who loves them. Just like the Bible says.

That’s a lot of trust.

For two thousand years, the church was entrusted with the care of our children without a second thought from a parent. And that’s how it should be.

The Royal Commission has shocked and disturbed trusting parents who readily encouraged their children to participate in church organised activities like youth groups and Sunday school.

The Royal Commission has uncovered the most shocking and unapologetic breach of our community’s trust.

And it’s not okay. We cannot accept this.

The church should be the safest place in the world for children and all people – the clergy are God’s most visible representatives on earth. They are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But so many Australians have been abused at the very hands of these so-called ‘representatives’.

We have lost our trust in what was once the most trusted institution in our society.

In my experience as a lawyer acting for clergy abuse victims, I have found that many adult survivors have lost their trust in ‘organised religion’ in general. This is for good reason – the abuses and manipulation suffered has robbed them of any ability to relate to the church and its teachings.

The idea of karma is quite popular with many of these victims – again, for good reason. Karma gives one a sense of hope to believe their abuser, the monster who stole their innocence, will one-day face justice.

As a survivor of abuse myself, I have found great comfort in the knowledge that abusers face the final judgement of God.

Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness resonates most profoundly with me. The value of forgiveness gives me hope that one day we will see a day where churches are once again a sanctuary for our community, not a symbolic reminder of the horrific abuse our sons and daughters have suffered.

The Royal Commission has given me – and many other victims of institutional abuse, genuine hope that things will change.

For years, for decades, survivors and their loved ones have been losing faith not just in our religious institutions – but in the Australian justice system. For so long it seemed like the entrenched culture of child sexual abuse and institutional cover-ups would go on unpunished.

But the Royal Commission has and will change everything.

Better days are ahead.

We need to open our hearts and find a way to be able to trust our church again.

I hope that once the bad apples have been tossed out, and the branches pruned – our community can help the church to once again become a haven. There will be a time when no children will ever have to spend the rest of their lives recovering from the abuses suffered in their childhood. There must be.

Let’s trust the good ones in the church, the real Christians, to pick up the pieces and re-build a safe haven of trust, love and respect.

If you have been affected by institutional abuse and want to hold those institutions responsible, download our guide to compensation right now to move one step closer to justice.


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