What role can the Church play in the fight against school bullying?

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On September 27, when nearly 12 million students had returned to school a few days earlier, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne launched a call for “general mobilization” against school bullying. While 6 to 10% of schoolchildren are victims, how can the Church become a refuge for harassed students, while training a new generation to fight against this scourge?

When presentation of the interministerial plan to combat school bullying, on September 27, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne recalled that this problem affects “on average two children per class”.

The plan planned by the government plans to strengthen the links between the school, the police and the justice system, with a "systematic" referral to the public prosecutor in the event of harassment being reported, but also the establishment of training courses. empathy, aimed at raising awareness of kindness between children.

The subject of harassment has recently returned to the forefront after numerous cases, each more shocking than the last. We can notably cite the suicide of Lindsay, 13 years old, and Nicolas, 15 years old, who resorted to this tragic gesture after being harassed at school.

According to France Victims, harassment “is based on the rejection of difference and the stigmatization of certain characteristics”. A physical difference, a disability, a communication disorder or even belonging to a particular social or cultural group can be the origin of harassment. The consequences for the victims are multiple, ranging from dropping out of school to depression, suicidal desires and sometimes suicide, as we have seen recently in the news. 

“The Church must be able to be a place of refuge”

InfoChrétienne met two actors working for Christian youth; Louis Rajiah, youth pastor of the Paris Center Chrétien megachurch and Laëtitia Bardina, regional coordinator in Ile de France of high school Bible groups (GBL). We discussed this topic of school bullying with them, and they shared their field experience with us. 

Faced with harassment, Pastor Louis Rajiah believes that "the Church must be able to be a place of refuge" for these harassed young people. According to him, the Church must remain a place where no one is rejected but on the contrary included, "partisan of the same body".

"The Church cannot become a place of harassment, on the contrary it must be a place where no one will be rejected, mocked, put aside but (on the contrary) included, a supporter of the same body. People must know that the Church is the place where (one can) find help, comfort".

He recalled that it happens that young people are teasing among themselves, but that any leader or member of the youth team of a church must ensure that the Church does not become "a place of harassment". 

Intervene, train and learn

For their part, GBL supervisors encourage young people to “refuse to allow people in their class to be pushed aside”. They encourage them to reach out to those to whom no one goes and to denounce any act of harassment.

Pastor Rajiah emphasizes that the Church, as a moral institution, must “intervene, train and teach the future generation how to deal with these injustices outside the Church” . She must help young people to show their faith to victims of harassment, which could “save” their lives, he recalls. 

Young people themselves are getting involved in the fight against school bullying. This is particularly the case with the project “Identity in question”, designed for and by young people, produced by Inspir.tv, Compagnie des Actes and Grain de Blé France. It addresses “directly, the issues of their daily life from the perspective of Christian values”.

Episode 3 “Double victim” follows the daily life of a teenager who is the victim of school bullying. Faced with this situation, one of his Christian friends shared his faith in God with him. Citing the Bible, he tells her these stories “where we see God helping people who were experiencing injustice”. A clip of around twenty minutes which provides keys to understanding and action for young people who would like to help a bullied student or those who would be victims of it themselves. 

The Church cannot replace parents

For Laëtitia Bardina, from the High School Bible Groups, religious organizations should not take the place of parents. She believes that when a case of harassment is discovered, it is up to them to intervene. The youth pastor of the Paris Center Chrétien megachurch seems to be of the same opinion and emphasizes that parents must be “pro-active”. According to him, they must be able to make sometimes radical decisions such as changing establishments if the child is in danger.

Indeed, according to article 371-1 of the Civil Code, parents hold parental authority which obliges them to protect their child "in his safety, his health, his morality" but also to "ensure his education and enable his development". In this sense, parents contribute with the school to the education of their children.

In an interview given to the media BRUT last November, the Minister of Education Gabriel Attal recalled this fundamental role of parents in the education and protection of children, in matters of harassment. In this video, he also announced the establishment of training modules to help families “detect situations of harassment” experienced by their offspring, from January 2024.

Melanie Boukorras 

Image credit: Shutterstock / SynthEx

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