The world’s abused and exploited children were honored and remembered in an extraordinary candlelight vigil in New York’s Times Square this week to mark the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
Spearheaded by Covenant House, the event drew hundreds of participants from youth advocacy agencies, faith groups, non-governmental organizations, UN diplomatic missions and the arts into the heart of New York’s theater district for an evening of hope and solidarity.
As youth from Covenant House’s shelter held aloft banners reading “Love and Peace” and “Happiness and Hope Forever,” organizers and religious leaders from four faith traditions urged participants to rededicate themselves to helping the world’s forgotten children, those who are abused, hungry, sick, orphaned and unloved.
“Our urgent task right now is reaching those “hardest to reach” children – children who are the most deprived, who suffer the greatest discrimination and who fall furthest outside existing safety nets,” said Nicholas Alipui, Programme Director of UNICEF, which helped organize the event along with The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children and Religions for Peace. “It is our collective vision, mission and responsibility to make sure that these children are not forgotten.”
Joined by Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Hindu religious leaders, Covenant House President Kevin Ryan offered prayers for all children at risk, and for an end to homelessness, hunger and the poverty that allows both to thrive. He asked that: “We always remember those less fortunate, that we strive to do what we can to fight injustice and intolerance and that we turn our prayers into practical, meaningful action, in whatever way we can.”
Hans Ucko, co-chair of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, reminded the gathering that the care of children is at the centre in all religions. “Each religious tradition has its own way of understanding the inviolable dignity of the child. This … can bring us closer together in our commitment to make the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children a venue for all to work together to save, protect and care for our children and youth. “
Earlier, Alipui and UN officials from Chile, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador met with formerly homeless youth whom Covenant House is helping transition to stables lives. The group discussed the universality of children’s rights, while the young people explained the challenges they face moving into adulthood without familial support and the difficulty of finding work, self-motivation, guidance and mentoring.
The New York events are part of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, which is being celebrated by more than 40 countries across five continents during the week leading up to November 20th, Universal Children’s Day.
Initiated in 2008 by the faith-based Arigatou International, the World Day of Prayer and Action’s aim is to bring together religious and secular organizations in a common effort to improve life for the planet’s most disadvantaged children.
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