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September 2022
Issue No. 310

Building a loving and safe church for all: the official launch of the Safeguarding Policy

(© 教聲/ ECHO) 

30th April marked the launch of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui’s Safeguarding Policy. The Safeguarding Policy Committee held an online press conference that day, and two videos were made available on YouTube: a promotional video for the initiative, and an overview video of the Policy as a whole.

This Safeguarding Policy was in the making for two years. The Province sought to promote the flock’s awareness of safe church and safe community, and with the approval from the General Synod’s Standing Committee on 21st April 2021, the plan was set in motion to provide for all who participates in church and worship an environment of ‘love’ and ‘safety’.

The Archbishop emphatically notes that the Safeguarding Policy should not be seen as a series of ‘regulations’, ‘constitutional addenda’, or ‘canons’. They are instead a set of methods that can ensure the health and safety of all those who shoulders and participates in the church’s pastoral, caring, and evangelic ministries. They are a set of tools for the church to approach the goal of being healthy and positive.

Peace should not be taken for granted

The Chair of the Safeguarding Policy Committee Mrs Priscilla Lui notes that ‘peace’ is not something we should take for granted. As such, it is the responsibility of each of us to safeguard the peace of all people, families, churches, and the wider society – especially the peace of children and the vulnerable. ‘Peace is not merely the safety of our bodies,’ Lui said, ‘In our modern world, we all understand the importance of “Peace” when it comes to matters regarding sex, interpersonal relationships, and mental, psychological, and spiritual health.’

She continued that incidents of violence, abuse, bullying, and discrimination are still happening ceaselessly in families, schools, and institutions. Even the church is not exempt from these issues, and with the COVID pandemic, the situation has only got worse. ‘It’s not just Hong Kong. The whole world is now facing the pain caused by hurtful actions and inactions. It is a pain that could be felt not just on an individual level, but on the societal and global level as well. The Hong Kong government is also looking into pushing a society-wide initiative in preventing such behaviour via law and education.’

Lui urged members of the church to work together, learn to love their neighbours as they love themselves, and build a church that respects the safety of others. ‘I wish that every person could be a Good Samaritan. I wish that we will not turn a blind eye to those who are hurt and those who are troubled. I wish that we will lead by action in consoling, supporting, referring, and reporting in these situations, that the needy – both adults and children – won’t be left without help.’

Manifesting God’s love

The Safeguarding Policy Co-ordinator Ms Jennifer Wong stated that the reason why the Province introduced this Policy is due to the fact that the Church is the Body of Christ. It follows then that the mission of the Church is to spread the gospel of our Lord in a culture and environment that is filled with respect and care. For only then could we manifest the great love of God, and nurture the growth of both life and faith. For it is required of us ‘To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8)

Wong continued that the Safeguarding Policy is applicable to the clergy, laity, staff, and volunteers of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, including all its parishes. The overriding principles of the Safeguarding Policy are:

1. HKSKH and all its ministries shall comply with all relevant laws of Hong Kong;
2. HKSKH has zero tolerance on all forms of misconduct;
3. HKSKH shall use its best endeavours to protect all individuals especially children (pursuant to the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)) and vulnerable persons;
4. When an allegation of misconduct is made, the church will immediately conduct internal investigation according to the procedure stated in this Policy. If deemed necessary, the church will report the allegation to the proper authorities;
5. HKSKH will not permit any person with any record of sexual criminal offences or who admits to having committed sexual abuse on anyone, or who is known to have a propensity to act inappropriately towards another person, to serve with our ministries;
6. HKSKH tolerates no violent, physical, psychological, or sexual misconduct, abusive or exploitative behaviour or bullying within the church community. Any such incident, with or without physical harm, must be addressed promptly, humanely and thoroughly;
7. Pastoral support will be given to alleged victims, perpetrators, and all other parties concerned during the time of investigation. We will also support their recovery. The best interest of all parties is to be upheld;
8. Confidentiality of all parties will be respected;
9. HKSKH endeavours to provide education and a model of best practice in creating a safe environment and community;
10. This Policy is to be a document made widely known to all members of the church and the public; and,
11. Where there is a difference in the definitions and standards between this Policy and the policies of partner organizations (for example, schools, or Scouts), the more stringent standard shall apply.

A clear definition of misconduct

The Safeguarding Policy goes beyond listing ways of creating a safe environment and procedures for handling alleged misconduct. It also gives a set of clear definitions and interpretations of items such as ‘misconduct’, ‘sexual misconduct’, ‘bullying’, and ‘neglect and abuse of a child’. It also includes the implementation responsibilities and accountability of the Safeguarding Policy Committee, the Provincial Safeguarding Coordinator, the Vicar, and the Parish Safeguarding Officer.

Wong reminded parishes to arrange a viewing of the ‘HKSKH Safeguarding Policy promotional video’ and ‘An Overview of the HKSKH Safeguarding Policy’ with their parish representatives, staff, and volunteers. She also encouraged the people affected to read the Policy paper, and sign the ‘Safeguarding Policy Consent Form’. Furthermore, those staff members and volunteers whose work touch upon interacting with children or the vulnerable will also need to sign the ‘Staff and Volunteer Self-Declaration Form’.

The Safeguarding Policy Committee will be arranging further talks for each diocese: 25th June at All Saints’ Cathedral, 20th August at Holy Trinity Cathedral, and 3rd September at St Mary’s Church. There will also be training sessions arranged, with one provisionally planned to take place in September, a two-hour course conducted by the Social Welfare Department, on the topic of ‘Creating a friendly and children-protecting church’.

(© 教聲/ ECHO)

<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 310. Please click here>


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