A first of its kind conference was held in Budapest, Hungary on child and youth protection within the church. The event took place on the 24th and 25th of May and featured P. Hans Zollner SJ, president of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University as keynote speaker. The co-organisers were the Ignatian Pedagogic Workshop and the Catholic Pedagogic Institute, both from Hungary.
The conference was two fruitful days for more than 200 experts, teachers, who presented how wide a scale Hungarian Catholic institutions and communities work on child and youth protection. There were also presentations from NGO-s, school and church officials to showcase their best practice.
The conference intended to outline the whole range of child and youth protection, in which preventing and handling sexual abuse is of key, but by far not of only importance. The work the experts are involved in include the following as well:
– Crisis and conflict management
– Digital challenges
– Sexual education
– Providing social aid for the ones in financial need
– Developing social competence in schools
While the other keynote speaker, Cirill Hortobágyi OSB, chief abbot of Pannonhalma Benedictine community, presented their model of safeguarding students in a boarding school, P. Hans Zollner SJ gave an outline of how acute the question is. He quoted the 2019 report of the European Council stating that worldwide not less than 1 billion children – that is one in every five – are exposed to sexual abuse. However, according to the surveys 95 per cent of the maltreatment take place in the family, and the greatest risk is a foster or stepfather: the chance of them being an abuser is seven times higher than that of the biological father.
Although in the light if media coverages their ratio seems much higher, sexual molestation committed within institutions, including churches, do not exceed 5 per cent. Nonetheless, it is not by any means a neglectable figure. Cirill Hortobágyi and Hans Zollner mutually agreed that Catholic communities must undertake utmost responsibility for the most vulnerable ones, and providing minors a safe surrounding. In Hungary the Jesuits developed their policy on child and youth protection years ago, and implemented these guidelines in their educational institutions as well.