Children’s Day: the great world religions and the rights of the child

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
The document titled: “Faith and Children's Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention Rights of the Child” was presented at the UN Office in Geneva. The study was developed to provide perspectives from seven religious traditions - the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and the Sikh – on the well-being of children. Civil society plays a primary role in the defence of children’s rights. The family is considered as the fundamental setting for “the growth of children".

“The diverse communities of the world’s faith traditions have played an often undocumented yet significant role in the preparation, adoption, ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child over the past three decades and continuing today.” “Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention Rights of the Child” highlights this role. The research provides perspectives of seven religious traditions – the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and the Sikh – on the well-being of children. It was developed by Arigatou International in collaboration with several partner organizations including UNICEF, the World Council of Churches, Religions for peace. The document was presented yesterday – on the eve of Children’s Day, November 20, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)– in a conference at the UN Office in Geneva. The contents of its 252 pages are the result of inter-religious meetings in various parts of the world with contributions from experts, faith leaders, activists and children.

Sanctity of human life. The study begins by analyzing the “compelling reasons” whereby religious Communities are complementary and in harmony with the Convention on the Rights of the Child – and its three protocols – and how they contributed to its redaction, highlighting the faith-based initiatives to protect the rights of the child. The study reviews the history and the fundamental principles of the Convention (Chapter 2), highlighting (in Chapter 3) the strong “complementarity between children’s rights and religious teachings”, whose shared key principle is “the sanctity of human life”, “at the heart of the world’s major religions and also enshrined by the body of international human rights law.” This founding principle encompasses belief in the dignity of the child; the family as fundamental for children’s growth; the awareness of society’s rights and duties towards children, and finally a holistic notion of the child and a comprehensive understanding of his or her needs. The study shows how each of these features is rooted in the spiritual teachings of the seven religions.

Concrete experience. Chapter 4 features a number concrete examples of the support given to children by religious communities protecting them (poverty, labour exploitation, illiteracy, sexual violence…). The study then seeks to answer the “frequently asked questions” about the CRC or the reservations of certain religious groups with regard to the document: Do children’s rights conflict with the rights of their parents or other adults? Does the “right of the child to freedom of religion” mean that children cannot be asked to say a specific prayer? The gender issue, and so on.

New emergencies. In the Conclusions we find a set of Recommendations for Action (Chapter 6) to fulfil the aspirations of the Convention and meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030: religious leaders, national governments and institutions, local religious communities, parents and children themselves are the recipients of a set of concrete indications. Raising awareness, denouncing, educating, changing attitudes, are among the tasks entrusted to religious leaders. Maximising synergies “between the faith-based initiatives and children’s rights initiatives”, which until now “have often operated separately”, thereby limiting their potential for action, is an objective highlighted in the study. Extending the gaze to the future, children are calling on decision-makers, including religious leaders, with new urgent messages, the first being the “climate emergency” that “is defining their human rights and that will shape their lives in every way.”
[Sarah Numico – SIR]