The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, celebrated annually on 20 November, is an opportunity for all sectors of society – governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and religious communities – to work together to end violence against children.
World Day events take many forms, including mobilization and media campaigns, workshops, religious services and vigils, and common action to protect children from violence.
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children was established in 2008 by Arigatou International, an international faith-based NGO. Since 2008, the World Day has brought together secular and religious organizations working on behalf of children through over 300 activities in over 85 countries.
The World Day is committed to the holistic well-being of children: physical, cognitive, psycho-social and spiritual. Coming from a variety of religious traditions and secular backgrounds, all individuals and partner organizations are united in a common concern for the well-being and flourishing of children. The movement respects the dignity and integrity of each partner without endorsing any one specific creed, ideology or set of political beliefs.
Ending violence against children is an urgent global challenge. With millions of children worldwide enduring some form of violence every year, violence against children threatens children’s rights, well-being, and development. Urgent action is needed from the global community to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children, wherever they are at risk.
The World Day is an opportunity for people of faith to join multi-faith and secular efforts to protect children; for individual religious communities and leaders to be part of a larger global initiative; for organizations working to protect children to accelerate and magnify global efforts to stop violence; and for governments to partner with civil society, including religious communities.
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is part of the growing global movement to end violence against children in its many forms.
World Day activities, actions, and advocacy are planned locally by participating groups. A World Day event typically begins with a faith celebration organized by religious leaders in the community. Faith celebrations can bring together people of the same faith or people of different faiths to pray and recommit themselves to working to end violence against children.
The celebration is usually followed by a collaborative “take action” project carried out with local community groups, government, UN agencies or other faith-based organizations designed to meet the needs of children in that community. The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children can lead to year-round initiatives and partnerships to protect children from violence.
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children provides individuals, organizations, and communities with resources and tools for participating in the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children on 20 November.
The World Day highlights three proven child protection strategies: 1) protecting children through universal birth registration, 2) promoting positive parenting and non-violent discipline, and 3) ending child marriage. We suggest participants consider education, community mobilization and advocacy initiatives on these issues.
“Religious communities” refers to religious actors and structures within religious traditions and organizations at all levels – from local to global. These include grassroots and local communities, leaders, scholars, practitioners, youth groups, women of faith networks, faith-based organizations and denominational, ecumenical and intra-religious umbrella organizations and networks.
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is a platform that brings secular organizations and the world’s religious communities together. Governments, UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations can accelerate and magnify their global efforts to end violence against children by working with the world’s diverse faith communities.
All of the world’s faith traditions share a common concern for protecting children from violence. Violence against children violates the fundamental tenets of the world’s faith traditions. Throughout history, religions have inspired people to protect and care for the weak, the oppressed and the vulnerable, with children being foremost among them. By promoting birth registration, positive parenting, and an end to child marriage, religious communities can play a critical role ensuring that all children develop to their full potential and grow up free from violence.
By working with religious communities, religious leaders and people of faith, secular organizations can engage stakeholders they otherwise might not reach. Religious leaders are by nature expert communicators, opinion leaders and social mobilizers, who can tap existing communication networks to advance child welfare and provide large, enduring infrastructures for service delivery. Religious communities often meet the needs of vulnerable children by providing education, shelter, medical care, legal support, counseling and spiritual guidance. In many places, faith-based organizations are the best way to reach families, schools, caregivers, workplaces and communities that are the front lines for protecting children from violence.
Working together, governments, secular and faith-based organizations can have a greater impact on child protection than organizations working alone. Religious communities can be powerful allies in protecting the most vulnerable children.
Violence against children can be prevented. The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children highlights three proven child protection strategies:
- Protecting children through universal birth registration
- Promoting positive parenting and non-violent discipline
- Ending child marriage.
Religious leaders can:
- incorporate messages on these topics in their weekly sermons;
- organize a World Day religious service centered around messages to end violence against children;
- spearhead education and advocacy efforts at the community level to promote non-violent child rearing and protect children through birth registration;
- use their networks to sponsor a wide-ranging campaign to educate families about options other than child marriage;
- direct their followers to tools like the ABCs for Action and Advocacy.
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is an opportunity for religious communities and leaders to be part of a larger global initiative, while reaffirming and communicating their religious teachings and values on protecting children from violence.
All of the world’s faith traditions share a common concern for protecting children from violence. Violence against children violates the fundamental tenets of the world’s faith traditions. All faith traditions affirm the responsibilities and rights of parents to guide and teach their children. By promoting birth registration, positive parenting, and an end to child marriage, religious communities can play a critical role ensuring that all children develop to their full potential and grow up free from violence. By participating in World Day activities, religious communities can make manifest their religious commitments to end violence against children.
By working with governments, UN agencies and secular organizations, religious communities can magnify their impact on child welfare.
Secular principles of child protection are consistent with religious commitments to protect children from violence. Child rights organizations, including UNICEF, are guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted in 1989 as the most comprehensive legal instrument for the protection of children. The CRC’s holistic view of children as social actors, as members of families and communities with rights and responsibilities, as well as the principles of justice, humanity and dignity that the CRC articulates, correspond with deeply held values embedded in major religious traditions.
Key components of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that connect with the principles of religious traditions:
- A fundamental belief in the dignity of the child;
- High priority is given to children and the idea of rights and duties of all members of society towards them;
- A holistic notion of the child and a comprehensive understanding of his or her material, emotional and spiritual needs; and,
- Importance is given to the family as the best place for the upbringing of the child.
1) Partnering with Religious Communities:
- Understand each other: It is essential for children’s rights organizations and religious communities to have the adequate knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively engage with each other in constructive ways – to understand each other’s roles, working methods, way of speaking and structures to help identify effective entry points for co-operation. Unless a concerted effort is made to understand each other’s language and values, they risk being unable to see the areas in which they are in agreement and may lead to erroneous conclusions about their ability to work together on behalf of children.
- Forge relationships with all religious communities: It is important that child rights organizations do not favor one religious group over another. They must work to forge inclusive and, where relevant, multi-religious partnerships based on how best to promote the rights of children.
- Be sensitive to the spiritual mission of religious communities, rather than seeing them exclusively as service providers and facilitators.
- Appropriately credit and co-brand joint activities between child rights organizations, NGOs and religious communities.
- See also: The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children’s Resources for Religious leaders
2) Advocacy and Messaging:
- Use religious community resources: Ask your partnering religious leader(s) to promote the planned World Day event to the participants at their weekly worship.
- Media: Identify good spokespeople from your participating organizations for media interviews. Promote your planned activities in the local media, including religious community newsletters, publications and broadcasts. Get your event listed in community calendars.
- Social media: Promote your activities through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. If social media are widely used in your community, consider posting regular Tweet/Facebook updates as your staff prepares for the event, including messages from religious leaders’ sermons, statements, etc. that are relevant to your event or issues. Post photographs relevant to the issues of your WORLD DAY event prior to the observance, and of the event once it is over. Get as many people “talking” via social media about your event and issues as possible.
- Video/photos: Post photographs and video footage of your event/issue on Flickr and YouTube. See also: The World Day of Prayer and Action’s Ten Tips for New Photographers in the Field.