Religious Leaders Gather for Day of Supplication for Peace And Call to Action for Children and Women of Darfur
Darfur, Sudan--Hundreds of religious leaders gathered at the Main Mosque in El Fasher to denounce violence and to call for peace and greater attention to the needs of children and women in Darfur. This gathering, on 17 December, 2010, marked the 21st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Religious leaders from all Darfur States and Khartoum were joined by government officials, members of civil society, representatives of UN agencies and the media.
The program was broadcast live to all mosques in Darfur, urging over 5,000 religious leaders to focus on women and children and to join their voices in the call for peace. Olushola Ismail, Chief UNICEF Field Officer in El Fasher, declared that religious leaders are “influential promoters and messengers of peace.” He noted that the primary objective of this event was to “consolidate the message of peace and reconciliation in Darfur through the collective voices of religious leaders whose constituencies range the entire spectrum of stakeholders and ordinary Darfuris.”
The event on 17 December was preceded by a media briefing on the need for the protection of children and the significance of this convergence of voices for peace. Religious and community leaders, government and UN representatives promised continued focus and support for a brighter future for the children and women of Darfur. Media partners pledged to amplify the messages of this campaign, and the Wali (Governor) of North Darfur announced the establishment of a committee that will work with religious leaders to carry this campaign forward.
Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Sudan Country Representative, emphasized the role that religious leaders can play in saving lives. He noted that 45,000 children die each year of preventable diseases, but that simple life saving messages preached by religious leaders could reduce this number. For example, Islamic teachings on the importance of breast-feeding call for breastfeeding for two years, a message that is even stronger than UNICEF’s and other partners’ call for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
The religious leaders gathered represented various tribes and communities, including IDP camps in South Darfur. They appreciated the opportunity to discuss the needs of their people with UN representatives and they pledged to continue to work towards peace and support for the women and children of Darfur upon their return to their local communities. The Chief Field Officer asked for their continued denunciation of violence, especially as it impedes humanitarian work in Darfur.
Written by the World Day Secretariat, based on a report by UNICEF