Church leaders and heads of faith-based organisations are in an ideal position to assist in the reduction of child abuse.

That assertion was made by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steven Blackett, while speaking at a symposium on Child Protection and the Church, which was held today at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.

According to him, during the period April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, some 1,045 children were referred to the Child Care Board for allegations of abuse.

He noted that this figure should be of concern to the Church and faith-based organisations, as such entities were an integral part of society, and functioned as a guide and a moral thermometer.

???The Church is in the community and as such, its members are from within the community. Therefore, anything which affects individuals within the community will affect the Church.

“The child who is neglected, physically beaten and abused, the child who is made to witness family violence on a regular basis, the child who is belittled; these children are our children who live in our communities and who may attend some of our assemblies.??Therefore, our obligation is to demonstrate our belief in a loving, caring supreme being, and put things in place to help these children,??? he stressed.

Mr. Blackett further highlighted ways in which church and religious leaders could protect children.

These included: educating members about the signs and symptoms of abuse; speaking out against all forms of violence against children, including the sexual abuse of girls and boys in their communities; developing and implementing codes of conduct to regulate interaction with children within their places of worship, organisations and institutions; and being an advocate for children.

The focus of the symposium is to finalise the Child Protection Protocols for Churches in Barbados, which have been developed and documented by Bishop Gerald A. Seale. It is a continuation of the Break the Silence ??? End Child Abuse Campaign, which was officially launched by the Child Care Board on November 30, 2013, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

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