Building a culture of protection must be top priority

Child Protection Conference of the European Jesuit School Network JECSE concluded at HPH

Ludwigshafen. How can we prevent abuse in our schools? What does successful prevention look like? The members of the European network of Jesuit schools dealt with these questions during a hybrid conference in four languages from 1 to 4 March 2022 in the Heinrich Pesch Haus in Ludwigshafen. At the end, the 130 participants were able to take home a whole bundle of information and ideas for implementation in their schools.

During the conference, the participants, who had come to the Rhine or were connected online from 23 countries, learned about the current state of research on the abuse of minors and the prevention measures in the European countries in numerous presentations by experts. A variety of thematic workshops offered the opportunity to deepen the topic, to exchange experiences and to transfer practical experience. The participants used the protected space to discuss sensitive issues as well as challenges with peers and experts. In addition, the network members developed tools to better address and shape the topic of prevention in their school communities in the future.

“Flying teams of experts” for support

“This conference is part of the wider support programme we offer to our schools,” said Agnieszka Baran, Director of the Jesuit European Committee for Primary and Secondary Education (JECSE). As a next step, she said, it is planned to organize webinars on child protection issues and prepare a practical publication on the subject. “We also want to form so-called `flying expert teams’ – teams that support and accompany schools in the implementation of child protection,” the JECSE director looked to the future.

Culture of dialogue is necessary

Ulrike Gentner, Director of the Centre for Ignatian Pedagogy (ZIP), particularly welcomed the wealth of information, ideas and tools for implementation and further development that the conference participants were able to take home and which were helpful for practice. “We need to consistently shape a culture based on a deep respect for human dignity. The focus is on `cura personalis’ as the core of Jesuit education,” she said, summarizing the results of the conference. A culture of dialogue, transparency and participation of children and young people is necessary, she said.

Culture of protection for the education of the whole person

José Mesa SJ, Secretary for Education of the Society of Jesus, Rome, called the conference an “important step in moving the process forward”. He appreciated the great commitment of the participants and the opportunity to share best practices in this important area of Jesuit education. “Without a culture of protection, our education of the whole person is not possible. Our renewed commitment to building this culture in our school must be a priority,” urged José Mesa SJ. (ako)