There has been a national Royal Commision of inquiry into the tragedy of child sexual abuse and institutional responses, announced by Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (her press release here).
As Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has said,
“The Diocese of Sydney expresses its unqualified abhorrence of child abuse, wherever it occurs. While the terms of reference (of the Royal Commission) have yet to be decided, we will work and pray for an outcome which will result in a safer society for the most vulnerable.”
A colleague reminded me that apart from complete cooperation with the inquiry from the churches, one thing we ought to be doing as Australian Christians is praying for those who continue to be hurt by the impact of sexual abuse.
So here is a prayer prepared by Mark Charleston, and circulated by Phillip Jensen from St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, for use in parishes during National Child Protection week, back in 2010.
A Prayer for Victims of Abuse
Micah 6:8 8…
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Almighty God & Everlasting Lord,
You are the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. We pray this week for those who have been abused within our churches and the wider communities across our nation.
Have compassion upon all who have suffered the injustice, humiliation and pain of abuse – sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and all other forms of sinful conduct.
In the midst of their distressing circumstances, give them courage to speak. May your perfect love drive out fear and anxiety. In your mercy, create opportunities for these men, women and children to share their pain, reveal their struggles and expose the hurtful actions of others.
Give grace, sensitivity and wisdom to all who will minister to the victims and survivors of abuse. Strengthen those who have been abused and their carers with the certainty of your love for them. In all things, we ask that your name be glorified and that we – your people – do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before you.
We humbly plead these things in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died and rose and now sits at your right hand in glory.
And here is a prayer I adapted and developed from a couple in A Prayer Book for Australia (not a prayer book I can recommend unreservedly, but one that contains some useful resources).
A prayer for victims and those who abuse
God our redeemer and sustainer, we pray for the survivors of violence, abuse and neglect. Be with them in confusion and pain. Give your power to the powerless, your fullness to the empty of spirit. Heal their wounds, free them from fear and restore them to true health. Strengthen them to face the future with faith in you. We ask this through Jesus your Son, who was himself a victim of abuse and yet in his resurrection, triumphed over the oppression.
Likewise, God of justice, judge of all the earth, we bring before you those who abuse and mistreat others. Turn the hearts of the exploiters from the way of evil. Open their eyes to the truth of their conduct and full them with hatred for the damage they do. And so by your Spirit bring them to true repentance and amendment of their lives.
And now, may your Spirit draw us together, both in our church family, and in the community. May we face our mistakes with complete honesty. But preserve us from unhelpful speculation and gossip. Help us reach out, care for the hurting, and support each other. Strengthen us with the gospel of your grace, for Jesus’ Christ’s sake. Amen.
And lastly, for those who have attended Anglican Churches in the Diocese of Sydney (where I serve), here is its Safe Ministry website, which expresses ZERO TOLERANCE for misconduct and abuse in its churches and provides information about how to report abuse and receive support.
No doubt churches in other places and from other denominations have their own approaches. I pray our Christian institutions will continue to repent of past failures in how we have handled such situations, and improve our processes for the future.