ROME, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017 (Zenit.org).- “Child Dignity in the Digital World” is the theme of the Congress organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for the Protection of Minors, to be held in Rome from October 3-6, 2017. Its objective is to highlight the dangers of the Internet and to foster action to protect children and young people.
Children and adolescents make up over a quarter of the more than 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide, according to the Center. This generation of over 800 million young users is in danger of becoming victims of sextortion, sexting, cyberbullying and harassment.
Government representatives, businesses linked to the world of the Internet, of policies, of NGPs, of international organizations such as UNICEF, the media, and religions attended an advance presentation of the event on September 29.
In an interview with the Italian Catholic agency SIR, Father Hans Zollner, SJ, the Center’s President, stressed that “the sexual abuse of minors exists in all societies, cultures and countries of the world. It’s an evil that is much more widespread than one thinks”
Terrifying? It’s Necessary to Talk about It
“A few years ago, the European Union launched an initiative entitled “One in Five.” This means that one young boy or one young girl in five, that is, 20 percent of all young people of Europe, is abused sexually. These are terrifying figures,” he said. “In this context, the Internet – which is a wonderful instrument of communication – can become very dangerous,” stressed the Jesuit, referring specifically to “sexting” and “grooming.”
“It is a disturbing, painful and difficult subject to address, and often there isn’t the will to do so, not only in the Church but also in society,” he said, “because no one notes the astonishing figures. Is it a phenomenon that’s too awful to talk about? Certainly, but it’s precisely because of that that we must do so,” he observed.
Through the congress the Church “takes up her responsibility” and works in collaboration with the Forces of Order, he explained. “We’re not a reality that is apart and we must not only recognize the laws, but also collaborate with the State. Obviously, when a person commits abuses on a minor, and including the use of child pornography, he carries out a grave act. However, it is even more grave if he who commits the abuse is a priest or a Religious,” he added.
Education, Social Networks, Governments
Father Zollner recommended education to combat these phenomena. “It’s ever more essential to educate young people to a responsible use of the Internet,” he continued.
The Jesuit believes that directors of the social networks, where young people “can be friends with persons they don’t know,” must determine “what they want and can do“ to avoid harassments.
Father Zollner also stressed the responsibility of governments “to contact companies, to make them face their responsibilities and then, through appropriate legislation, to come to an agreement to impede abusers from looking for victims on the Internet.”
In the Church, “the endeavor of prevention functions” when it’s taken “seriously.” However, he deplored, the Church “often lacks courage and also lacks knowledge and awareness of the phenomenon.”
Created in 2012 at Munich, Germany, the Center for the Protection of Minors was transferred to Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on February 16, 2015.