Staying hopeful in a hopeless world

I recently had the privilege of meeting with the committed men and women who have been working on the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse over the past four years.

I was asked to address them on how to stay positive, resilient and effective when dealing with trauma victims.

Their obvious sense of justice, integrity and compassion in the demanding work of bringing evidence of systemic sexual abuse into the light was impressive.

I was moved to see the receptivity of people buried for years in the worst muck of institutional abuse still wanting to hope and believe.

I personally find it sad that many of the crimes have been committed within our churches – about 60 per cent of abuse survivors reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions.

Too often, these institutions had put their corporate reputation above the welfare of the children to whom they had a duty of care.

Our faith communities still serve and heal, even when some of their leaders fail.

The abuse by what is – in reality – a small percentage of church authorities, has damaged the trust in those many who served the community with integrity.

There is deep sadness and considerable disenchantment among the faithful. But we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Our faith communities still serve and heal, even when some of their leaders fail.

It would be easy to fall into pessimism and allow cynicism to take hold and for hope to die.

We shouldn’t believe that evil has the last word.

I draw on my faith to handle that temptation.

It is why, at World Vision, our Christian faith is so important – for it is this which gives us the sense that God hasn’t given up on a broken world. So what right would we have to give up?

We should never underestimate the power of evil. But we shouldn’t believe that evil has the last word.

It is not enough to feel outraged by the crimes of the past.

We must continue to proclaim the preciousness of every child. We owe survivors not just truth and justice, but also a genuine faith-led hope for the future. Sexual abuse of children is a national shame.

A society that does not protect the vulnerable, the children, the aged, the handicapped and the poor is a failed society.

I suggest a national day of repentance, prayer and fasting when the Royal Commission’s final report is handed down in December.

Our nation, including our churches, needs healing and hope.

In the Old Testament’s Second Chronicles, it is written: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (7:14).