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Conference on Protection in the South Slavic Conference

12-14 October in Rama, Bosnia and Herzegovina

17 October 2023

From 12 to 14 October, a conference on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons was held in Rama, Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the participation of provincial Ministers, provincial Protection Delegates and trainers from the South Slavic Conference. Among the speakers were Dr. Anita Dučkić Sertić and Dr. Sanda Smoljo-Dobrovoljski, both psychologists, who introduced the participants to the dynamics of abuse and the accompaniment of victims, especially those from families where boundaries are not respected, based on concrete cases. Dr. Josip Bošnjaković, also a psychologist, proposed a reflection on the abuse of power based on the biblical story of Abraham and Hagar. Since Abraham's loyalty and love was first and foremost for Sarah and not for the Lord, Abraham and Sarah decide on the fate of the servant girl, on Hagar's "destiny". This story is sometimes repeated because, for some religious, loyalty is first and foremost to the bishop, to the provincial Minister, to the Church, to the brothers, to the relatives, to the reputation, to the money, to the honour, and not first and foremost to the human being, "Hagar": this leads to the abuse of power and also to the question of covering up cases.

The book "Spiritual Abuse" by Doris Wagner (2019), in which Klaus Mertes immediately points out three possible situations in which spiritual abuse occurs, was also discussed:

After a panel discussion on the theme of protection in ongoing and initial formation, there was a discussion on how to select candidates in order to avoid possible abusers. The Definitor General, Fr. Albert Schmucki, OFM, shared his experience of accompanying friars accused of abuse. There is no single profile of the abuser, but very often they are people who put all their energy into their work but suffer from a great psychological and spiritual emptiness within themselves. Finally, Fr. Ratko Radišić, OFM, of the Province of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Croatia), spoke about some juridical aspects of responding to an accusation of abuse.

This conference was very useful for the friars who took part, who are now better able to continue their commitment to the protection of minors and vulnerable people.

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