For Immediate Release
World Day of Prayer and Action for Children and Partners Urge Action to “Stop Violence Against Children”
World Day of Prayer and Action, United Nations Special Representative, UNICEF and Religions for Peace reaffirm commitment for the protection of children
(NEW YORK, 24 June 2011) – Engaging faith-based organizations to “stop violence against children” was the focus of a panel discussion at the United Nations, during which four leading authorities on child protection reported on progress and urged the 85 attendees to help by enlisting support.
Mr. Kul Chandra Gautam, Convening Chair of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced the World Day’s 2011-2013 emphasis on positive parenting, birth registration drives, and prevention of early child marriage to prevent violence. “We cannot make sustained progress for children in a world of violence,” he said. “We need to plant seeds for a non-violent world, starting with children.” He urged attendees to “create momentum” by encouraging “friends, families and local houses of worship to partner with others to commemorate the UN-declared Universal Children’s Day on the 20th of November as a World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.”
“Violence against children is so widely accepted,” said Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the world’s leading authority on the subject. “But all forms of violence against children are preventable.” She said that “when children witness violence, that is violence too as it leaves a deep impact on their ability to relate to other people; and it affects their confidence and self-esteem.” But citing the larger number of families who see “no need for violence” in child-rearing, and partnerships in working toward behavioral change, “we look at tomorrow with great hope,” she said.
Dr. Susan Bissell, Chief of UNICEF’s Child Protection Section, said she saw hope in the “five billion people who belong to religious communities worldwide,” and in “leaders at family and community levels especially who have influence, and can identify norms, practices and behaviors that are protective.” She cited work in El Salvador where Sunday School teachers are taught how to identify child abuse; and in Mauritania “where leaders said corporal punishment has no place in the Koran or Islam.”
Jacqueline Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program at Religions for Peace, told of the “first-ever pan-African religious gathering” they organized with UNICEF in Nairobi, Kenya in June, 2002 about caring for children affected by HIV/AIDS. She also reported on many other projects, such as one in Uganda where some 500 religious leaders were trained in child protection, and over 1,800 caregivers, parents and guardians were trained in positive parenting skills and entrepreneurship.
H.E. Mr. Octavio Errazuriz, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations, and sponsor of the event, urged attendees to “join in to say ‘no’ to silence against violence, and ‘yes’ to prevention and action.”
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The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is a global movement to mobilize secular and faith-based organizations to work together for the well-being of children. The World Day is celebrated every year in the week of November 20 and is an initative of Arigatou International. In 2010, this unique combination of faith celebrations, prayer and tangible actions took place through 69 events in 46 countries.