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Training Seminar in Italy:
A Child Protection Justice System Take Shape
by Ijya dasa - ISKCON Central Office of   Child Protection


"I want that a new generation of devotees shall carry on this great mission successfully." - Srila Prabhupada

The children of our society are our most valuable asset. They must by all means be protected. If, by this child protection judicial system, one child is protected from abuse, then in that sense, justice has been served. It is for this purpose that the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection was formed in April, 1998. As Dhira Govinda prabhu has nicely stated:

"ISKCON has developed a policy of zero tolerance to child abuse in the community, and each allegation is thoroughly investigated by trained members of ISKCON in co-operation with the State authorities. In its concern for the children who experienced abuse, ISKCON has created a system for responding to and resolving child abuse cases. Through this system, the victim's experiences are acknowledged and this acknowledgement plays a large part in the healing process for victims. When the CPO receives allegations of child abuse, the process of investigation begins. Results of the investigation are given to an adjudicative panel. On this panel are child protection judges who are veteran members of ISKCON and have received training in the basic principles of recognizing child abuse."

Friday, May 28th, 1999, 5:30pm: The passengers are all on board, the plane begins to taxi down the runway. We are finally on our way. Do I have everything? Briefcase, carry bag, passport, wallet, travelers checks, plane ticket, etc. Did I remember all the important papers to bring? Copy of the Judges Manual, copy of the Task Force Report, training schedule, list of seminar participants and their flight schedules, video tapes, flip chart, camera, evaluation forms, case files, etc. It's quite a long list. I think I've got everything. Our final destination is Italy,where we will conduct our second Child Protection Judges Training Seminar. It will be held in the conference room at the Villaggio Hare Krishna temple in Bergamo, about an hour and a half outside of Milan.

I'm amazed at how it somehow just all finally came together. Of course we worked hard to get to this point, but I have to appreciate how ultimately it is simply by Krsna's grace that this is all taking place. So many details, arrangements, deadlines, emails, flight arrangements for fourteen devotees, and so on. The participants, all mature, dedicated devotees from all over Europe, will all be arriving tomorrow. Many of these fourteen new judges, or adjudicatory panel members, were recommended by other senior devotees in leadership positions in Europe. In fact this selection process for European judges started last year. Looking back, alot has happened since then......

July, 1998: Not long after our first Judges training seminar in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where ten North American judges received 4 days of intensive training, we began to make plans to conduct another seminar in Europe. A letter from Dhira Govinda prabhu, director of this office, was sent to temples and GBC's all over Europe:

"Dear Temple President [or GBC],

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

The ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection will be holding a judges training at Villaggio Hare Krsna, in Bergamo, Italy, from October 8-11, 1998. Please recommend qualified devotees for the service of judge, or volunteer yourself for the service. We are looking for devotees who are mature, competent, spiritually strong, and who are sensitive to the topic of child abuse. Also, a judge must have a balanced view of issues, and should possess a detached objectivity. Other qualifications include an ability to maintain confidentiality, an ability to make tough decisions based on facts, not sentiment, and an intellect that can quickly process a lot of information on topics such as psychological frameworks and investigative procedures.

The 4-day seminar consists of intensive training in topics related to child abuse and investigations. We recently completed our first judges training in the United States, and it was very successful.

After completion of the training, judges will adjudicate and determine sentencing/rectification for cases of alleged child abuse that are connected with ISKCON. A panel of three judges will serve on each case. We expect that a typical case will involve about two hours to read the investigative file (which will be provided by the Central Office of Child Protection), and another 2 or 3 hours in conference calls. The panel of judges on a particular case will determine the schedule of conference calls and other elements of the case that require time involvement. After a judge is trained, it is estimated that s/he will serve on about 3 cases in the coming year. So, the most intensive time commitment is the 4-day training.

The purpose of this endeavor is to resolve unfortunate incidents of abuse in our movement's history, and to clear the way for implementing effective systems of child protection in our schools and temples. The first phase of case adjudication involves determining whether there is tru