Local faith leaders issue joint statement on preventing child abuse

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders representing a variety of faiths read and signed a joint statement Wednesday that stresses the responsibility of faith communities to protect children from abuse.

“We are here today to make a clear statement that the faith community has an important role to play in child abuse prevention, “ Sister Joy D. Jones, General President of the Primary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said. “As faith leaders, we hold a trusted position in the lives of families, and therefore a have great responsibility for their safety and well being.”

The Utah Faith Leaders Roundtable on Child Abuse Prevention created the “Safe Children Initiative,” which was signed by members at Primary Children’s Hospital.

“Child abuse and neglect — it’s so much bigger than people know,” said Pamela Atkinson, a board member with the faith group. “We need many more voices to get on board to prevent it occurring in the first place.”

SisterJones cited a statistic that last year in Utah over 9,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect, with half of the victims under the age of 10 and over a third even younger, under the age of five.

Roundtable member Imam Muhammed Mehtar of the Khadeeja Islamic Center of Greater Salt Lake asserted that protecting children is vital for the future.

“A hurt child is a hurt future,” added roundtable member Imam Muhammed Mehtar of the Khadeeja Islamic Center of Greater Salt Lake. “A safe child is a safe society, a safe humanity, a safe America, a safe global environment.”

The faith leaders encourage people to read and then add their names to the Safe Children Initiative statement which can be viewed at faithstatement.org. They also encourage other people of faith to read the statement in their congregations and display it in their places of worship.

“As religious leaders, we represent many diverse faiths, beliefs, and ideologies, but I believe we are far more alike than we are different,” the Imam said.