Photo Credit: Children in Wales
[Church in Wales] The Bishop of St Davids, Wyn Evans, said violence against the weak and defenceless, particularly when sanctioned by the state, should have no place in a civilised society.
The Bishop was speaking at a vigil at St Davids Cathedral on Monday (Feb 3) dedicated to Ending Legalised Violence against Children. The service was led by the Dean, Jonathan Lean, and Canon Dorrien Davies. It was attended by the Mayor of St Davids, members of the City Council and the Churches’ Network for Non-violence which is part of an alliance of organisations under the umbrella of Children Are Unbeatable! Cymru which campaigns for a change in the law to give children the same protection under the law on assault as that currently enjoyed by adults.
Bishop Wyn said the kingdom of God was about relationship and a relationship that embodied virtues of justice, compassion and mercy and respects children; and demands openness, trust and gentleness from us.
He said, “How we treat those who are weak and defenceless is a marker of a civilised society. Violence against those who can least resist it is a miasma which permeates all levels of life, both the public and the private, where children are concerned. Violence, both deliberate and directed and casual and unthinking and directed towards children especially, and by extension the disruption to the life of family and society, violence, especially when it has the sanction of the state and the law behind it, is pandemic.
“Our hope is that whatever small steps we take such as this vigil, they are steps along the way to eliminating violence against children, and anyone who is weak and defenceless and on the edges of life, and making it history, leaving it behind on the threshold of the kingdom with Jesus' words ringing in our ears: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of heaven like a child will never enter it.”
Peter Newell, Coordinator, Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, said, “This service at St Davids is a very welcome part of a global inter-faith and human rights movement to challenge and end violence against children disguised as discipline.
“We all pray that the National Assembly will soon be able to vote on a cross-party amendment to remove the ‘reasonable punishment’ defence and thus give children in Wales the same protection from being hit and deliberately hurt as all other Welsh citizens. This has been the public policy of successive Welsh Governments for more than 11 years. In 2011, the First Minister confirmed that Wales has the devolved power now to go ahead and legislate. Wales could soon join the 35 states globally, 23 in Europe, which have already prohibited all violent punishment of children.”
Nearly 130 organisations in Wales are signed up to the Children Are Unbeatable! Cymru campaign which aims to secure legal reform at the earliest opportunity. They include leading parenting, children’s rights and child protection organisations, as well as religious leaders.
Bishop Wyn is a signatory to a joint statement from Welsh Christian leaders supporting the removal of the “reasonable punishment” defence:
“Physical punishment has for too long been a common part of our culture. But physical punishment as a form of discipline is incompatible with the core religious values of respect for children’s human dignity, justice and non-violence. There are no circumstances under which this painful and humiliating practice can be justified.”