Clergymen say the church must speak out on incest

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Two members of the clergy and a lawyer agree there’s need for a number of changes at various community levels to address the wide-ranging issues related to sex crimes in Antigua & Barbuda.
One of the changes that Bishop Kingsley Lewis recommends, is to make it a criminal offence for a person not to report to the police any sex crime that is brought to their attention by a victim.
He said that as long as there is evidence that the person was informed, they should be held accountable.
“I know in some countries it is a criminal act if a person knows, a neighbour or somebody else knows that that kind of thing is happening and they do not speak up and advise the authorities. I think we
need to become a more caring society. There are too many things happening in our society today and we just seem to shrug our collective shoulders,” the bishop said.
His comment came in the wake of a recent case in which it was said that a pastor advised a victim of incest and her family to pray, forgive and move on instead of going to the police to report that her father had been raping her between ages nine and 14. The father recently pleaded guilty and was jailed for 18 years.
Bishop Lewis said while he does not know the pastor who allegedly did this, he has “difficulty with a pastor adjudicating or trying to adjudicate in that situation” and ignoring the fact that a criminal activity has taken place.
He said the church must also respect the law and recognise that “no one is above the law”. Apart from focusing on holding the offender accountable, he said the church must also offer support to the victim.
“In this case, we have a responsibility for caring for, assisting in the counselling of that child, it obviously has been a traumatic experience and it obviously has been a traumatic experience which will have perhaps lasting effects on the child,” he said.
He also said that it was irresponsible of the pastor because he should recognise that prayer alone does not solve everything and systems of government are set up to address criminal behaviour.
Adventist Pastor Wayne Knowles also weighed in on the issue, saying the church needs to offer support and its leaders need to take its role more seriously
Pastor Knowles said, “In Luke’s gospel, Chapter 4, Jesus gave his mission statement with protecting the innocent as part of that. His mission was to defend those who found themselves in unfortunate situations and those who cannot defend themselves whether lame, blind, poor, or children, that’s the mission of the church.”
He said the church also has to recognise the role of the police because “it is an issue of legality”. Pastor Knowles also indicated that “it is an issue of sin” and it was unfortunate that the pastor gave that advice.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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