Madagascar: Novice Jesuit Masters empowered to protect children

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By Honore Onana Olah, SJ

The novice masters of the Society of Jesus in Africa held (from 02 to 05 December 2018 in Antananarivo in Madagascar) their biennial meeting on the theme “The health and care of Novice Directors”. A meeting in which Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Emmanuel Orobator, SJ, President of the JCAM (Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar) took part, Fr. Fulgence Ratsimbazafy, Provincial of Madagascar and several Novice Masters of African Jesuit novitiates, including Fathers Billy Birhashwirwa Chabwirne (ACE), Jean-Marie Quenum (AOC), Charles Ladislaus Mnubi (AOR), Thomas Ejoor Oguagua (ANW), Arthur Lanto Niry (MDG), Tite Mutemangando (RWB), Antonio Virgilio De Oliveira Costa Faria (SAF-ZAM-ZIM-MOZ).

Fr. Billy Birhashwirwa, SJ a novice Jesuit master from ACE (Republic democratic of Congo and Angola) was kind enough to tell us more about this meeting:

The first day we talked about the self-care of the novice masters; and we also shared about our experiences as novice masters.

The second day was about child safeguarding. We had a presentation from Fr. Noel Nwadike Ozoemele, SJ, one of the Member of the JCAM Safeguarding Commission. We also discussed about the latest decisions made at the level of the JCAM.

Child safeguarding is it really a serious ‘business’ for novices master in the Society of Jesus?

Yes it is! Indeed, the JCAM wants to be proactive. Not wait when things will happen to act. But proactive. That’s why they asked: what should be the best entry point in the Jesuit formation? The answer was the best way is to start from the beginning. That is the noviciate. They decided to empower those in formation and the formators, to be aware of that matter since it is affecting the whole Church. We are all concern about it.

Any ideas about how to do that….?

One of the things as I said, it is to empower the novice masters so that they can help the novices to grow; instead of always bringing people from another milieu.

Is there any hope in the Church with this issue of child abuse?

Yes! It is a matter of awareness. If everyone feels concerned about the situation, then we will be more efficient on the way we are dealing with children. In our apostolates we are always in contact with children. Therefore, being aware, will help us to be more efficient in our ministry, save and protect the children around us…

To conclude / un mot en guise de conclusion!

We need to take this matter of child safeguarding seriously as Church, as society, as Society of Jesus in Africa and in each province. We can say in Africa we are not really dealing directly with the problem but it will come. Therefore we need to be proactive and see how to prevent from such issue in the future.

Un mot en français pour dire que comme jésuite africain, nous ne devons pas penser que c’est un problème des autres. C’est aussi notre problème parce que nous avons aussi des cas. Mais seulement peut être par la culture par la culture, par la mentalité, nous ne sommes pas encore préparés à parler. Mais lorsque cela arrivera, nous serons confrontés aux mêmes problèmes. Ainsi, au lieu d’attendre que cela arrive pour réagir, nous devons prendre les devants et s’assurer que nous sommes d’abord protégés et nous protégeons aussi ceux à qui nous sommes envoyés en mission surtout les enfants.

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