World Day News
Kul Gautam is Chair of the Council of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC). He was formerly Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. In Coimbatore with DPAC’s council to participate in Shanti Ashram’s Interfaith Round Table 2013, Kul shares his thoughts on the role religion can play to help children.
What is the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children and why does it work for children by networking with worldwide religious organisations in particular? what inspired its model?
November 20 is Universal Children’s Day and everybody celebrates it differently — doctors through health initiative and teachers through schools — but many religious organisations wanted to know how exactly they could contribute. Since all religions prioritise prayer, we suggested that they spend the day in prayer for children and take those prayers forward through action. That’s how, in 2009 after a meeting in Hiroshima, November 20 also became the DPAC.
Religious organisations can initiate much change because they influence society’s behaviour.
For instance, in the 90s, Latin America, despite being a middle-income region, had lower child immunisation rates than many poor nations. While the Ministries of Health acknowledged the problem, they said they didn’t have medical personnel to cover every place. That’s when the UNICEF suggested immunising children through churches because Catholicism was powerful in Latin America. Every single village, however far-flung, had a church whose pastor the village respected. Immunisation could be done by them with just basic training. We soon saw rates rise very fast. So partnering with religious organisations does work.
In India, where conflict between religious communities has often been an undeniable part of our history, how do you see this approach panning out?
This model is especially appropriate for multi-religious, multi-cultural societies like India because it encourages interfaith cooperation to overcome misunderstanding and unjustified hatred.
While religious communities may argue on issues of politics and theology, they can come together for the cause of children, because at its core every religion wants the best for its children. There are superficial and misinterpreted teachings from religious texts which are used to exploit children by keeping them from schools, marrying them young, etc. But it takes a diamond to cut another diamond. So for every one of these misinterpretations, progressive religious leaders can show the positive, enlightened path that highlights the well-being of children.
What are DPAC’s key focus areas in India and how does partnering work on the ground?
In India, we realised that while education and health for children were being addressed, movements against violence towards children needed working on. Reports of girls being sexually molested and exploited, child abuse at home and in schools, child marriages and child labour were common. On the ground, DPAC has a triumvirate partnership between religious organisations, secular bodies such as UNICEF and Save the children Fund, and sometimes local governments too because while they pass good laws, implementation can be helped by others. In India, we’ve partnered with the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University in West Bengal and Shanti Ashram in Tamil Nadu to work for emphasis on positive parenting. Discipline can be implemented without violence, and through love. We also focus on making children aware that India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that therefore they can demand their rights. But those come with responsibilities which they must fulfil too.
Nepal is your country of birth and upbringing, and you’ve spearheaded the Rollback Violence Campaign (RVC) there. What are the similarities you find between India and Nepal in the challenges that face children?
Nepal and India have similar traditions, history, culture and religion. Even in politics, you have had a Maoist/Naxalite Movement, as have we. And while its goals were to achieve justice for people, violence was an accepted means. That’s where the RVC stepped in and upheld Gandhi’s principle of non-violent means towards justice. Just as in India, DPAC in Nepal works against child marriage by partnering with religious organisations. Traditions such as these have been ingrained for centuries and justified by religion. Priests conduct these marriages! So we need to work against it from within the religious framework.
How have your years with the UN influenced the vision that DPAC has?
Parallel to the 2002 UN General Assembly Special Session for Children, there was a meeting of the world’s top religious leaders who pledged to support the summit’s commitment to ‘A World Fit for Children’. So DPAC’s vision was sown then. I was also instrumental in drafting many of the summit’s goals towards child survival which we continue to strive for today. Having worked with UNICEF for 35 years, I’m a child of the UN and my philosophy of life is influenced by the UN, so I know its many positives. But as an insider, I also know its shortcomings which we now try to overcome.
Religious leaders, governments, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies join forces on the World Day
Religious leaders, governments, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies join forces on the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children to protect children from violence
KABUL, Afghanistan, 27 December 2012 - During this year’s World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, thousands of worshippers in hundreds of mosques across Afghanistan listened to and participated in discussions that focused on preventing child marriage and corporal punishment, and on the importance of birth registration – all through the lens of Islam.
“According to Islamic principles, if we want to build a prosperous nation, we must build prosperous families. Children are the future of the families and upcoming leaders of our nations,” said director of Islamic education with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs Murtaza Hamid, in support of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
aunched in 2008, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children works with diverse religious communities, governments, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies to accelerate efforts to protect children around the world and use their influence to bring about change that will enable children to play, learn and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Inspired by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is observed on 20 November to coincide with the Convention’s anniversary and Universal Children’s Day. Working with religious leaders
Working with religious leaders is a key component of UNICEF’s efforts to protect children, particularly in rural areas where religious leaders have great influence.
In Kabul, at an event co-sponsored by the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF, 500 religious leaders from around the country came together to discuss how they can use their influence to protect children from violence. The event was one of dozens of UNICEF-supported activities that took place in various countries to celebrate the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
Focus on non-violence
Last year, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children adopted a three-year theme of violence against children, a broad topic that touches upon many themes, including non-violent discipline/positive parenting, birth registration and child marriage.
In a statement prepared in honor of this year’s World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, Archbishop Desmond Tutu identified child marriage as a form of violence against girls that denies their fundamental human rights. “Every year, more than 10 million girls are married as children. They enter a union in which they are likely to suffer violence and abuse, and which can cause untold psychological harm,” he said. “That is why, on this year’s World Day of Prayer and Action, I call on the community of faith to do everything in our power to end child marriage and ensure that girls can fulfil their God-given potential.”
Interfaith activities around the world
Building on its long history of working with religious communities from all faiths on issues that affect children, UNICEF supported activities all over the world to mark the 2012 World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, including:
Islamic Republic of Iran - In coordination with the National Body on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (NBCRC), a half-day event focusing on addressing violence against children (especially within religious communities) was organized. The Minister of Justice, members of the NBCRC Coordination Council, comprising more than 16 government and non-governmental organizations, main religious leaders and media participated.
Liberia - With support from UNICEF, the Religions for Peace–affiliated Inter Religious Council and partners organized a candle-lighting event in observance of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. The event brought together the Liberia Council of Churches, the Liberia National Muslim Council, government ministries and civil society organizations. Candle-lighting ceremonies, organized in many communities, are meant to shed light on hidden forms of abuse and exploitation that children suffer and end the silence surrounding this abuse.
Panama - Under the theme of ‘Violence Free Adolescence’, activities planned by UNICEF, together with the Global Network of Religions for Children, included religious services from various faiths focusing on a violence-free adolescence, a resolution signed by major religious and indigenous leaders addressed to media organizations calling on them to highlight the positive role adolescents play in Panamanian society, in-person activities during which adolescents shared their prayers and reflections on a violence-free adolescence and a radio programme featuring a spokesperson from the Catholic church and the UNICEF Panama Representative.
South Sudan - World Day of Prayer and Action for Children activities focused on ending child marriage and on a call for action for the Government to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Main participants included religious and traditional leaders, parliamentarians, policy-makers and opinion leaders.
By Genine Babakian
Read the original article on UNICEF website.
The details continue to pour in to World Day’s New York office, but preliminary reports show that World Day’s global theme Stop Violence against Children was the topic of scores of community mobilization campaigns, workshops and seminars during the 2012 World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, which was celebrated on 20 November 2012 at over 100 activities in more than 55 countries. The World Day will publish details of the 2012 events in early 2013.
Ending child marriage, which is often associated with violence against girls, is a major goal of the World Day. This year, early marriage and violence against girls were the topic of a large number of World Day events. They will continue to be a central topic in 2013.
“No true religion can ever condone violence against women and girls,” said Anne Anderson, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, on 14 December 2012 at a United Nations Stakeholders’ Forum for preventing and eliminating violence against women.
In November, World Day Co-Chair Reverend Dr. Hans Ucko spoke out against honor killings at a conference on “Violence and the Family” in Istanbul, which was organized by “The Journalists and Writers Foundation” a World Day Council member affiliated organization. (Honor killing is when a male member of the family kills a female relative for tarnishing the family image.) “Honor killing is murder and murder is never justified in the interpretation of religion or tradition. On the contrary, religions and traditions play a constructive role to build peaceful societies” Reverend Ucko explained.
To date, 100% of respondents to an on-line survey say that they will participate in the World Day again in 2013.
About the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children envisions a world where all children have a joyous childhood; where they can play, learn and grow; where they are loved and cared for; where their health, safety and rights are protected. The World Day is committed to ending violence against children. World Day partners believe that by working together, religious communities, governments and secular organizations can better protect more children from violence than they can by working alone.
The logo for the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children features a stylized image of a child painting a rainbow in the sky. The rainbow symbolizes the diversity of the human family and the child’s act of painting it represents people, including children and youth, working to build a better world for children.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius
KATHMANDU, 20 Nov 2012 - Today, Nepal celebrated the World Day of Prayer and Action with leaders from different religious groups, all of whom were agreed that religion can be a powerful vehicle for social transformation.
The Day of Prayer and Action (DPAC) is a movement that harnesses the powerful role that religious communities can play in protecting children by promoting affirmative measures. This year’s theme for DPAC is reduction in Child Marriage. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, more than half of whom are in South Asia (31.1 million). Though Child Marriage is illegal in Nepal, more than half of Nepalese girls get married before their 18th birthday.
“Secular or inter-faith organisations can really play an important role,” said Kul Chandra Gautam, President of DPAC; former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. “Only a diamond can cut a diamond,” he said to describe the importance of faith-based interventions to stop harmful traditional practices used in the name of religions. “Law enforcement alone is not sufficient to eliminate the traditional practices that cripple our society. It is essential to work with our religious leaders so that they can inform and influence our communities to change society,” he said.
The event saw more than hundred children from diverse faiths participating at the event. A group of them expressed that none of their religions endorsed violence against children. There were also performances by children from Hindu, Muslim and Jain religions in which they expressed opinions on child marriage using placards to show its ill effects.
“Child marriage is one of the most harmful practices, as it usually denies girls educational opportunities, leads to poverty and economic insecurity and has a serious negative impact on their health and decision-making capacities,” said Nafisa Binte Shafique, Chief of HIV and AIDS, UNICEF Nepal. “UNICEF is keen to partner with the inter-faith organizations to address the harmful social norms. However, the interventions should be creative, innovative, sustainable and must ensure participation of adolescents.”
The World Day of Prayer and Action was launched in 2008 to improve the lives of children everywhere. Today, along with Nepal, 71 other countries are celebrating this day to further develop the social, educational, health and overall condition of children through faith-based approaches.
Banjul, Gambia - Officials of Gambia’s Department of Social Welfare, under the Ministry of Health, said it recorded close to 376 cases of domestic violence, including violence against children and women, paternity and custody cases between January and October, 2012.
Fanta Bai Secka, Director, Department of Social Welfare, said statistics showed that there were 127 cases against mothers; 87 cases against mothers and children; 16 against children; 10 cases involving children in forced or early marriages, physical abuse, homelessness, school fees; paternity dispute 36; and custody dispute 100.
Secka unveiled the statistics to journalists at a press briefing Tuesday on the “World Day of Prayer and Action for Children 2012”, being marked Wednesday.
As part of activities for the Day, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Gambia’s Department of Social Welfare, in partnership with the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (SIC), the Gambia Christian Council and the Child Protection Alliance (CPA), will be holding “a panel discussion on Gambia TV and a synchronised nationwide prayer in mosques on Friday, 24 November, and in churches on Sunday, 26 November.
Ending this year, the three-year global theme “Stop Violence against Children” has been localised as “Let's Stop Violence and Sexual Abuse against Children Now”.
Secka said the Gambian Government is committed to protecting children against violence and abuse as stated in the country’s constitution and the ratification of major international instruments relating to children.
“The Gambia has an obligation to ensure that the rights of children are respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled,” she stressed.
Violence against children takes many forms – from sexual abuse and exploitation, sex tourism, corporal punishment, to female genital mutilation, according to Ms. Aichatou Diawara Flambert, the UNICEF Country Representative to Gambia.
A world day of prayer and action for children, an initiative set in motion by the faith-based organisation, Arigatou International, was adopted by UNICEF in 2009 during the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
It is a concept in line with the CRC and the MDGs, and most importantly, it is guided by religious principles and traditions.
It seeks to bring together people from different religious background and goodwill to pray for and safeguard the integrity, rights and dignity of children.
It also seeks to promote their survival, development, protection and well being.