Looking at the best interests of the child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children [1990], Article 3.1 states that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.

Nov 14, 2019

PENANG: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children [1990], Article 3.1 states that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration. Our Holy Pontiff’s exhortation in the Moto Proprio Vos estis lux mundi, “You are the light of the world, A city set on a hill cannot be hidden,” establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence and includes an obligation for every Diocese in the world to set up, by June 2020, a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

A Professional Standards Office committee has been working since 2015 in an advisory role to the Bishop of Penang regarding the formulation of policies and the investigation process in child protection. The Diocese of Penang has promulgated the Child Protection Manual themed Keeping and Restoring Communion dated Feb 6, 2019. Bishop Sebastian Francis has inculcated the three core principles of Responsibility, Accountability  and Transparency in handling children and vulnerable adults issues.  To spread this awareness, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Georgetown, organised a three-hour Child Protection talk attended by parents  and participants from church ministries.

Parish Priest, Fr Joachim Roberts, in his opening address thanked those in children’s ministry for their time and effort in nurturing and planting the seeds of faith in the young ones. The Church is always grateful and now wants the  parishioners to be the eyes, ears and hands in safeguarding children. Fr Joachim plans to appoint a Safety Officer who will handle all matters regarding child safety and care in the parish.

Speaker A. E. Margarita Malayapillay, who is a registered licensed counsellor and President of the Penang Association of Counselling and Psychology, spoke on the overall awareness of Child Protection where information is the key to prevent and act against child abuse. Children have five areas of devel opment which includes the physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral spheres. It is therefore imperative to learn the proper responses when dealing with child victims. The dangers of child sexual grooming in the present social media era was also elaborated.

Lawyer Christopher Kushi touched on the present child legislations in Malaysia with emphasis on the Child Act 2001 and Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017. Also discussed were the powers of the Social Welfare  Department’s Protector officer for children’s care and protection, the effects of child pornography and the mandatory reporting of offences against children. The reporting and handling mechanism for child abuse and misconduct complaints in the Diocese of Penang was explained for participants to spread this information.

Discussion by participants revolved around the need for a proper methodology and balanced approach towards child discipline since any form of physical punishment could run afoul of the law. Church members must be vigilant in their neighbourhood and act when confronted with child abuse. Should a person wish to remain anonymous, the Child Abuse Hotline – Talian Kasih 15999 is one option. The same sex attraction and internet virtual world exposure prevalent in this present social media age was also discussed as there is a need to protect and educate young minds from negative influences.

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