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Waging Peace During Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Terry Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates

Isaiah 54:13 promises, “and great shall be the peace of your children.” 

Yet as long as child abuse and neglect are a reality in the lives of over 20,000 Kentucky children annually, we must seek a variety of ways – as an act of courage in faith – of how to transform that inspiring promise to a reality for our boys and girls.

And while preventing child abuse is most assuredly the responsibility of every citizen and every organization, I would assert that people of faith and places of faith have an extra obligation, borne from an ethical foundation around children that unites all faiths. Every person of faith and every place of faith have to see themselves as a front line for protecting children.

So exactly how can faith communities wage peace for children when it comes to preventing abuse and neglect?

Waging peace begins with ensuring that kids are protected when they are under your auspices. That means prevention protocols in terms of operations within educational programming and youth development. It means rigorous background checks. It means knowing about every angle on best practices and ensuring that your place of faith is an exemplar in those commitments. This is not an arcane challenge; it is frankly a remarkably straight forward proposition and there is NO excuse for your faith community not embracing this first step.

Waging peace also means leveraging every opportunity to raise awareness of the issue within your congregation. 

 – What are lessons for the children themselves that build protective factors?
 – How can you engage adult Sunday School classes or your church’s small group work around in this commitment?
 – What about issue forums to think deeply about this crisis amongst our families?
 – Does your church bring a commitment to community engagement and service? If so, what about a faith interface with an on the ground community entity that focuses on abuse and neglect?
 – Or get really bold and become active in policy making by connecting your faith community members with their elected leaders. (Yes, that is not only legal; it should be a part of your faith witness!)

Finally, make this a visible and vibrant faith commitment and embrace Blue Sunday, which is April 25th.  How can any faith community not step up and embrace this National Day of Prayer for abused children? Maybe that’s through an elegant blend of the sacred text and the liturgy and the hymns and the sermon. Maybe that is an after-church direct service project for children for have been abused themselves. Maybe that is awareness raising for those new parents in your congregation. Or maybe it’s as simple and as profound as an intentional pause in that Sunday’s service when “all hit their knees” to hold up abused children in fervent prayer and meditation.

Blue Sunday invites – and perhaps demand – creativity and commitment. Seize this special day to bear a special testimony.

Dillon Burroughs, in Faith Acts: A Provocative Call to Live What You Believe, observes, “I prefer trying over talking.” I hope you do too when it comes to combating the evil of child abuse.  Amen! Amen!

Join Face It and Ministry Safe for a one-hour training on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 12 pm EST to learn about preventing child sexual abuse in your faith-based communities. During this training you will learn ways to identify the behaviors of potential offenders known to the child, how to identify problematic behavior, as well as the importance of reporting. This training is open to all agencies and organizations, including all faith-based organizations from any denomination. Learn more and register.