By Elena Dini
Benjamin Msowoya, a 38-year-old husband and father, is the diocesan coordinator for the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Karonga, Malawi.
This past fall, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga sent him to Rome to complete the Diploma in Safeguarding of Minors, offered by the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Msowoya said his diocese is at the forefront in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults in Malawi.
“We already had a preparatory workshop to inform the clergy about the policies on the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” said Msowoya. “We received some direction from the Vatican, but then each bishop has to take concrete steps in his diocese and put structures in place.”
Prior to his diocesan appointment, Msowoya had worked in ministry with more than 40,000 children and youth, aged 5-19. His diocese has seen cases of child abuse originating in the family, in schools and in the church, he said.
In the first month of his intensive, one-semester program in Rome, he and his 24 classmates learned about several significant topics and cases regarding the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. He said most of the cases covered in the course were “lighter” than some cases in his diocese.
“And if such ‘lighter’ cases had such heavy consequences on the life of the concerned people or victims, can you imagine the consequences on the people from my home country, who have gone through worse abuse?” he said.
Msowoya said the program has offered opportunities to reflect on appropriate tools and structures that could be established in order to enhance the safeguarding of minors from all sorts of abuse.
“I came here with the expectation of learning what structures could be put in place in my diocese to act appropriately regarding child abuse,” he said. “From the very first week, I was pushed to analyze the cultural set-up of my workplace — the diocese — in order to single out cultural elements that perpetrate abuses, because these need to be challenged.”
Msowoya said he believes that it is God’s providence that he is currently studying in Rome and living at The Lay Centre.
“After intense lessons at the university, I find solace in the community life in this new home, The Lay Centre, where I happily eat, pray, and enjoy the free time with other students and staff,” he said.