NEWS RELEASE: Celebrating the 6th World Day, Religious and Secular Groups Band Together to Stop Violence against Children

New York, 20 November 2013 – The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is celebrating today its sixth annual World Day by bringing together secular and faith-based organizations to work to stop violence against children. Over 90 activities have been organized in at least 50 countries thus far.  

The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (World Day) was created in 2008 to be a day of reflection and a call to action for the well being of children around the world and it is celebrated on Universal Children’s Day.

Although its activities culminate in November, the World Day has grown into a global movement that works all year, weaving together the efforts of religious leaders, faith-based and non-governmental organizations with those of governments around the world.

This past year, the World Day concentrated even more on mobilizing initiatives that continue throughout the year.

On 13 November, Shanti Ashram and partners– with the help of the World Day– launched the “Standing Up with One Million Indian Children” program to improve the lives of one million children in India. More than 2,000 school children and principals from 100 schools attended the launch ceremony.

The Gandhian organization Shanti Ashram will work throughout the year with the government agency National Foundation for Communal Harmony and the private sector corporation CII-South Zone as the “Standing Up with One Million Indian Children” program verifies birth certificates, arranges age-appropriate immunizations, introduces ethics education in the schools and child rights literacy in 10 Indian states.

“The Shanti Ashram Standing Up with One Million Indian Children program is exactly the kind of year-long impact that we want to have,” said Meg Gardinier, Director of the World Day of Prayer and Action Secretariat in New York. “Our Council decided earlier this year that World Day activities should concentrate on touching the daily lives of children,” Gardinier said. “Now, we focus on helping our partner organizations add value to their programs beyond 20 November.”

The Pastoral da Criança in Brazil has been a World Day partner since 2008. This year, the Pastoral da Criança is expanding its activities to address the health and education needs of pre-school-age children. And today, the Pastoral da Criança is hosting community forums — referred to as “conversation circles” — for religious and secular groups throughout Brazil. Community leaders will prioritize the needs of their pre-school children and determine how they can work together during the next year to improve the lives of children under the age of seven.

In Kenya, the Center for Rights Education and Awareness in Nairobi has been working with World Day’s parent organization Arigatou International to develop an ongoing program in the village of Kiberia, which is one poorest in the country. Kiberia, which has more than one million residents, has the worst basic services in East Africa. Today, a small group of children from Kiberia and their parents will participate in an innovative program to promote child welfare and positive parenting at the Soweto Baptist Primary School. Children will be provided with snacks and a health check while their parents learn how to prevent violence against children.

In neighboring Tanzania, the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) today is concluding a three-year campaign to stop violence against children. The day will be marked in Dar es Salaam by a peace march – made up of children and a police band – which will end at Mnazi Mmoja Grounds, a large public square.

The GNRC in Europe and Sixth Sense, a youth focused group that promotes intercultural understanding and peace building, are working with the World Day to host a two-day anti-violence event this weekend, November 23-24, in Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Twenty years after the Bosnian civil war, the organizers are bringing together parents, children and youth from the surrounding area to strengthen parent-child relationships and prevent violence against children.

In Cambodia, the Ministry of Cult and Religion, UNICEF, Save the Children and Investing in Children and their Societies (ISC) are presenting a training workshop later this month for 120 religious leaders from 24 provinces. Buddhist, Christian and Muslim leaders will be joined for the first time by leaders of minority religions as they learn how religious leaders can help prevent violence against children.

Although it is moving toward continual activity, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is still a day of prayer and contemplation. It is celebrated by prayer in many places in the world such as Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used radio to ask Liberians to pause for a minute of prayer at noon today. UNICEF and Inter Religious Council of Liberia arranged for church bells to ring at noon and for imams to call for prayer at the same time.

The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is an initiative of Arigatou International, an international faith-based organization with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. The World Day is guided by a global Council whose membership includes the Church of God; Religions for Peace; the Ramakrishna Mission; Save the Children; the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children; the Writers and Journalist Foundation; and UNICEF.

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