National leader dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families said that protecting children is not just a responsibility but a divine calling.
January 23, 2024 | Montego Bay, Jamaica | Nigel Coke and Inter-American Division News Staff
“As a church community, I would want to implore you to answer the call to protect and prioritize our children,” urged the Head of Jamaica’s Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) Laurette Adams-Thomas, as she addressed a gathering of Seventh-day Adventist leaders and over 600 youth leaders and Pathfinders recently.
The CPFSA is dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families across Jamaica.
“Together with the assistance and guidance of the church we can create a safer and more nurturing environment for our future leaders – our future pastors, teachers, our builders of our nation.”The newly minted national leader called on churches to make it their responsibility to protect and prioritize children during the special address at the Seventh-day Adventist Conference Center in Mount Salem, in Montego Bay, on Jan. 13, 2024.
“Every month we receive approximately 1,200 reports of child abuse highlighting what I would say is the harsh reality that many of our children are currently facing,” stated Adams-Thomas. “This issue is not just a statistic, it’s a call to action. It’s a call that echoes throughout our communities that we need to act. Global violence against our children remains a challenge and unfortunately Jamaica is not exempt.”
According to Adams-Thomas, a study done by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 80% of Jamaican children experience various forms of violence at home. Another 65% endure bullying at school.
“This is a stark reminder that our children need our protection, they need our support and guidance now more than ever. That is why the role of the church in protecting and prioritizing our children is so important. It’s not just a responsibility, it’s a Divine calling,” she added.
The event was a Youth Conference and Expo organized by the Jamaica Union in partnership with IADPA Bookstores and Deli, under the theme “Revived and Renewed.”Adams-Thomas appealed to children and youth to report any form of abuse to talk to a trusted adult or someone they could trust.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has over the years been educating our members and children of our God expected responsibility for our children,” said Dr. Lorraine Vernal, women, children and adolescents’ ministries director of the Adventist Church in Jamaica. “We have a zero-tolerance approach for any type of child abuse.
The issue of child abuse is not for the church to privately deal with, because we are guided by the Child Care and Protection Act,” said Vernal. “We inform members that any act of abuse of our children must be reported to the relevant authorities including the police.”
Adams-Thomas pointed out that the church can play its role by informing its congregants about child abuse, which can be done through its Sabbath School and youth group gatherings.Pastor Dane Fletcher, youth ministries director of the Jamaica Union, said it was relevant to have the CPFSA reinforce that the church’s priority is to preserve the innocence of youth and protect them from abusers. “The church is not a perfect place,” he said. “Should there be child abusers, in our company, masquerading themselves as caring youth leaders, we wanted to sound the alarm that the Adventist Church has a zero-tolerance approach towards child abuse and violence towards youth.”
Fletcher hopes that the presentation by Mrs. Adams-Thomas would stem the tide of abuse, irrespective of how mild that abuse might be.
Mrs. Vernal warned perpetrators to desist from this ungodly behavior. “I call on all persons including parents, teachers, and care givers, who believe that the abuse of our children is their right and privilege, to desist from such belief and behavior as many are marred for life,” said Vernal. “I implore you instead to seek professional help through counseling and therapy.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica has more than 340,000 members worshiping in more than 730 congregations. The church leads 9000 Pathfinders, 2000 Master Guides and over 1,000 Senior Youth Leaders.