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An ecumenical consultation on the dignity and rights of children in Asia has spoken of the need for churches to work together to tackle sexual exploitation of children. After a five-day meeting this week in Jakarta, participants issued a communiqué warning that sexual exploitation, including child prostitution and child pornography” was rife in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia. They say that these countries “have become a safe haven for paedophiles to avoid easy detection of their activities.” Thy are calling for an ecumenical regional network to uphold and protect the dignity and rights of children.
The consultation was hosted by the Gereja Protestan di Indonesia Bagian Barat – the Protestant Church of Western Indonesia – on behalf of the Christian Council of Asia (CCA) and included social workers, inter-governmental organisations and civil society groups in addition to Church leaders. In their communiqué, the participants urged churches in the region engage “in tactical action” with governments, civil society organisations and faith-based networks to tackle issues including sexual exploitation, the juvenile justice system, sexuality, and drug abuse.
They also addressed issues within Churches, saying that they should develop training on child protection; and they encouraged churches to develop “child-friendly rights-based programmes in local congregations.”
They said: “the issues raised during the deliberations of the consultation included challenges to child protection in a digitalised world; children in conflict situations; situations of child labour; implementation of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and subsequent guidelines in Asia today; ending violence against children; early childhood development; and trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Asia.
“Millions of children continue to be victims of the most egregious forms of exploitations such as violence, abuse and neglect. Poverty, sexual exploitation, sale and trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, pornography and forced labour have become serious concerns in several Asian countries. Impoverished children who are forced to live in vulnerable situations continue to face many inhuman and degrading experiences.
“Ethnic, religious, political and communal conflicts affect millions of Asian children. The impacts of digitalisation in all walks of life affect children negatively despite the many positive gains of technological advancements. Access to basic education, health care and essential factors needed to nurture and develop the talents of the future generation are limited in many situations.”
Those taking part in the consultation say that ensuring the dignity and rights of children is something that Churches should do together. “We shared during workshop sessions about finding ways to build coalitions and networks for effective advocacy on upholding and protecting children’s rights and dignity,” the communiqué said. “The current situation in Asia identified common issues and also possible actions to address various contexts. In this situation, it is our firm conviction that sharing of experiences and resources as well as collaboration on addressing emerging issues help churches in Asia to work together for the dignity and rights of children.”
In response to the communiqué, General Secretary of the CCA, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, said that he would explore possible options to facilitate an Asia Advocacy Network on Dignity and Rights of Children, as called for by the consultation. “The proposal and suggestion that emerged from the participants reflect the successful outcome of the consultation and the efforts of CCA to sensitise the churches to motivate them in taking their engagements in child rights advocacy more seriously”, he said.