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Interfaith Alliance | 19-20 November 2018 | Abu Dhabi, UAE
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What Faith Communities Can Do To Stop Online Abuse

November 19 2018

The final panel session of the first day was chaired by Rebeca Rios Khon, the Director of Arigatou International New York Office, and the conference heard from Father Hans Zollner SJ, President, Centre for Child Protection, Pontifical Gregorian University Rome; Garth Blake, Chair, Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission; Dr. Brinder Singh Mahon OBE, CEO and Director of The Nishkam School Trust; Reverend Hidehito Okochi, Chief Priest, Kenuin and Jukoin, Director, Arigatou International; Dr. Kezevino Aram, Director Shanti Ashram and Marya AlHattali, General Authroity of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, UAE.

Dr. Kezevino Aram spoke first, arguing that a conviction of religious faith called individuals to move towards action, and this was particularly relevant on issues related to the online abuse of children. She argued that in order to protect and safeguard children today, interfaith dialogue of the type which was found today in Abu Dhabi was critical, and urged the conference to continue to work in continued interreligious forums to tackle these issues.

Second to speak was Mr. Garth Blake who reflected on the challenges that the global group of forty worldwide churches of the Anglican Communion faced in tackling child abuse. Mr Blake presented the guidelines which the Anglican Communion had ordained to promote safeguarding and also discussed the importance of discussing the Theology of a Safe Church,  as this can underpin the importance of the prevention of child-abuse, both online and offline.

Reverend Hidehito then addressed the conference on the importance of listening to children who are victims of abuse, and not disregarding their experiences and stories of abuse to ensure they are fully taken into consideration. As people of faith, Reverend Hidehito argued, humanity must have faith in children, their stories and their views. Additionally, he argued, faith groups need to ensure that the houses of worship can act as safe havens for all.

Marya AlHattali shared her perspectives on the abuse of children, explaining that her viewpoints came not only from being professionally engaged within this forum, but also from being a mother. This element of family, for her, was a critical one, as it motivates her to work to prevent abuse of children.

Dr. Singh Mahon, who is the director of the British Nishkam School Trust and oversees the overall management of the education of 4,000 children in the UK, highlighted the need to provide moral guidance and digital literacy for children that seeks to work against darker and more pervasive forces that can influence them online. In that context, he argued, it is equally important to be able to address children in positive language that shows them they are more widely valued by the adult world.

Rabbi Diana Gerson reflected that children are now digital natives, and using computers for them is an organic process. She argued that it is important that congregations are addressed on and reminded of the tenets of child-protective protocols, and are able to guide their congregations forward accordingly.

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