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Protecting the rights of children is our responsibility says Archbishop

Posted on: October 3, 2019 1:30 PM
Photo Credit: Convention on the Rights of the Child, Arigatou International

[ACNS by Rachel Farmer] Religious communities have a responsibility and vital role to play in protecting the rights of children and preventing violence against them, according to an international report due out next month.

Arigatou International, an NGO which works collaboratively to build a better world for children, is set to launch a new study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) from the perspective of seven major religions. Aimed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the CRC in November 2019, it highlights the important role played by religious communities in advancing the rights and well-being of children and promotes continued action by religious communities in the future. 

Primate of the Anglican Church in the Central America Region, the Bishop of Panama, Julio Murray, took part in a UN Faith Briefing on the rights of the child this summer, when Arigatou presented a preview of its study.

The Archbishop shared his own experiences and reflections, drawing on findings from an international forum on ending violence against children run by the Arigatou-backed Global Network of Religions for Children, which he attended in Panama in 2017. 

He said: “It’s a reality that millions of children live with abuse, discriminations and all kinds of violence daily… Some of us are embarrassed that the places where they experience this most is in families and the second place is in churches, mosques, temples and other places where faith communities would gather.”

He told the panel that religious leaders needed to learn more about the Convention of the Rights of the Child, its objectives, the legal reality and have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways forward to make changes.

“Religious leaders are now coming forward to apologise for acts of abuse that were done either physically, spiritually and emotionally,” he said. “It is important for us to help the voices of children become a concrete action to transform the reality of death into a reality of life.”

The Archbishop said the forum in Panama had enabled them to hear the voices of children and the sobering realities of the kind of violence they face including child marriage, child soldiers, bullying and abuse, gang pressures, female genital cutting (FGM/C), sexual exploitation and trafficking. 

Archbishop Julio talked about how one young delegate had got down on her knees and asked the religious leaders to put an end to violence against children. She told the 500-strong gathering that they as religious leaders could do more and said: “…forced marriages affect us because we lose our dignity as girls and this we experience at home. There are children who sell drugs at schools and we are afraid of them. It is not easy to have adults who listen to us because they say we don’t have any experience - we are ignored even though we are the ones who experience the violence.” 

The report from Arigatou, entitled, ‘Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, is due to be released on 20 November 2019.  

Based on research from regional interfaith consultations in different parts of the world as well as interfaith focus groups gathering views and opinions from children and young people in seven countries, it identifies a number of achievements and good practices by religious communities that are in keeping with children’s rights and are producing results for the well-being of children in many parts of the world. 

It will also lay out practical recommendations for religious leaders and religious communities to help strengthen protection for children. It states that: “Because religious leaders are highly influential in their communities and many are well-respected public figures, they can also serve as strong advocates on policies and programs regarding child well-being— such as in the areas of health, education, child protection and child participation.”