Thirtyone:eight has launched a new campaign this week with the backing of many senior Christian leaders across the UK, which encourages church leaders and all those working or serving in Christian faith settings to stand in solidarity with victims and survivors by pledging to be part of a movement for change in how Christian churches respond to abuse.
The Safer Places Pledge has been created as a direct response to some of the recent appalling and high profile cases of abuse that continue to make the headlines in the UK, such as the case of Peter Ball highlighted in the recent BBC documentary ‘Exposed: The Church’s dark secret’, John Smyth QC, Michael Oluronbi, Jonathan Fletcher and that of SPAC Nation church whose leaders have been accused of exploiting young people within its congregation.
The pledge not only speaks to the horror of the abuse that has taken place, but also the poor way people in positions of leadership and their organisations have responded when abuses have come to light. Such accounts are not unique to any one Christian denomination or tradition, and time and again victims and survivors of abuse have pleaded with leaders and those in positions of power and influence to listen to them and take action. Whilst they have limited success, the stories of further abuses, whether current or past continue to be exposed.
Justin Humphreys CEO and Bishop Dr Joe Aldred Patron of the charity launched the pledge this week by calling for leaders to make a public declaration of their intent to make change happen.
Justin Humphreys said “As an organisation, thirtyone:eight has been working in the area of safeguarding for more than 40 years, and although we have seen much change, it doesn’t get any easier especially in the face of such appalling stories. At the same time, it gives us a renewed conviction that things must change."
"Apologies and learning lessons are important steps in the process of responding to abuse, but too often that is where we stop. We must not just take responsibility, and learn lessons, but make active, tangible, timely steps towards change and encourage others to do the same. As a Christian, I must fight for the church and pursue what is right and just. I believe that change begins with me choosing to be the change I want to see. I’d encourage everyone who has been moved but what they have seen, read and heard in recent months to join me in making this pledge and living it out courageously.”
The Safer Places Pledge contains six statements to:
- Speak up
- Put survivors first
- Conceal nothing
- Take responsibility
- Make change happen
- Hold each other accountable
Dr Aldred said "Many churches are now aware of the requirement for good safeguarding policy and practice, and work hard to have these in place and functioning. However, there’s a way to go to be satisfied that all churches are, as they should be, safe places for all. I see this pledge as a positive commitment to overcome whatever challenges churches face to establish and maintain a culture of the highest safeguarding practices. By signing up to the Safer Places Pledge we are committing our churches to address these challenges, holding each other mutually accountable to make whatever changes are necessary be they personal, organisational or cultural."
The pledge invites people to voluntarily sign-up and gives the opportunity for them to publicly show they've pledged their support. Individuals and organisations can sign up to the pledge at thirtyoneeight/pledge