Germany's Protestant Church is setting up an independent council to improve its efforts to tackle sexual abuse. The assembly, aimed at ensuring that abuse is dealt with more rigorously, will include victims.
The Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) on Tuesday announced that it would set up an advisory council to listen to victims of sexual violence.
The bishop of Hamburg, Kirsten Fehrs, told the EKD's annual conference, being held in the city of Dresden, that 12 individuals would be appointed to the body, each for a period of four years.
Fehrs said the council would provide a critical, independent voice on the Protestant Church's handling of sexual abuse cases.
The EKD — a federation of some 20 different Protestant churches has already adopted a directive on protection against sexual abuse as part of a wider effort. It has also established an independent contact point for victims to report abuse and seek help.
Fehrs thanked all those — particularly the victims — who contributed to a report that outlined an 11-point action plan.
"We are committed to and genuine about the protection of those who need us and who confide in us," Fehrs said.
Need for transparency
The advisory council is based upon a similar concept adopted by the German government. One member of that body, Kerstin Claus, said church structures that allowed crimes to be swept under the carpet needed to be brought to light.
"Communities have to learn about allegations and must not be left in doubt when these crimes are proved," Claus told the conference. "If employees of the church have acted in a way that protects offenders or institutions, there must be consequences."
Germany's Catholic Church has long faced claims that it has failed to tackle the issue of sexual abuse, but hundreds of cases in German Protestant institutions have also been reported.
Also being addressed at the four-day meeting will be the church's approach to social cohesion in Germany, threats to world peace, refugee movement, and climate change. The EKD is the supreme governing body of the Germany's Protestant Church, which has some 21 million members.
rc/rt (KNA, epd, dpa)