This year the two churches are planning an interfaith service. People from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths will name hurts and grieve, listen to the testimony of adult survivors of child abuse as told to playwright Alana Valentine, reflect in silence and with gentle music played by Dr Nicholas Ng, pray for justice and healing, participate in singing and symbolic acts, and celebrate stories of survival and recovery.
For the first time Venerable Thubten Chokyi and Pundit Nanda Maharaha Das will join in representing their faiths. Redfern-based Gumbaynggir musician Tim Gray will again perform and offer an acknowledgement of country.
Childhood trauma has long-term effects. It is estimated to affect five million Australian adults. Many struggle day to day with their self-esteem and relationships as well as their mental and physical health. Research has established that people who have experienced severe early trauma can recover.
Childhood trauma can be confronting and difficult to talk about. Care is taken in the prayer service to be truthful in acknowledging abuse and the effects of abuse while also finishing with hope and a positive message. Because sometimes people find stories of abuse distressing, a counsellor experienced in dealing with childhood trauma will be available at the gathering to assist those who need support.
The service itself can be a source of comfort. Feedback from last year’s event included: “Incredibly powerful and poignant service. I was incredibly moved as I know was everyone there. It was sensitive, thoughtful, respectful and ever so pertinent.” “I felt so much love. It was very helpful.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has brought more light to the prevalence of abuse and instances where religious and government institutions have failed the children in their care. Redress is needed, as is continuing change in culture, policies and management within Australian institutions so that as far as possible sexual abuse is eliminated. Many survivors have bravely spoken to the Royal Commission, openly sharing their difficult and personal experiences. They are all to be commended for their fortitude, character and persistence in pursuing justice.
An open invitation is extended to all who would like to unite in support of adult survivors of childhood trauma to attend the Interfaith Prayers of Hope and Community to be held at Pitt Street Uniting Church, 264 Pitt Street, Sydney, on Saturday October 31 at 10:30am.