Ahead of Universal Children’s Day on Sunday 20th November, I thought I would share something very special with you.
As part of an international effort to end violence against children, a newly published guide offering ways to end the practice of physical punishment of children in multi religious gatherings has been made available to people worldwide.
This extraordinary handbook was prepared by The United Nations, Save The Children, The Global Partnership To End Violence Against Children and The Churches’ Network For Non Violence, and sees human rights and religious leaders come together to tackle the idea that religion legitimately condones violence, by empowering Faith communities to think about religious custom and tradition differently.
The central idea is summarised by Dr William Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace:
“To be faithful is not simply to repeat a tradition but to be creative in a new situation.… We must desacralize those traditions which cause harm.”
2016 has been a significant year for children: it marked the 10th anniversaries of the Kyoto Declaration, which aims to address ongoing violence against children around the world, and the UN’s pioneering Study on Violence against Children. United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon is also using this year’s Children’s Day to highlight the terrible experiences of children who have no Voice:
“This year, I wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the commitments made by the international community to the world’s children are extended to a group of children who are often forgotten or overlooked: those deprived of their liberty.”
The Handbook then, is a focused effort at promoting collaboration opportunities between Faith communities so that children are better heard, and protected. It provides lots of helpful resources as well.
Whilst I don’t practice any religion, myself and the Researching Reform project respect those who practice peacefully and with genuine respect for those whose beliefs do not echo their own. This handbook represents the best of religious observance – it invites world religions and their communities to collaborate, to forge new traditions in keeping with the core themes of peace and love present in each one, and to eradicate child violence by actively challenging justifications for physical harm within sacred texts.
Growing up in a Jewish-Muslim household, this drive to find the best within each Faith and tie those customs in with the fundamental belief at the heart of every religion that peace and love have to prevail regardless of the circumstances, is one I’m very familiar with. The Handbook realises my own personal view of religious practice, and at a deeper level, universal truths which we can all live by, whatever we believe.
Focusing on sanctioned violence against children within religious communities may seem like a piecemeal approach to addressing the phenomenon of legitimising all violence within Faith communities, but it represents an important development in this area which could pave the way for much broader changes in the future of human history.
I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful Children’s Day on Sunday, and hope that you’ll take a look at the Handbook and even pass it on to organisations and Faith based communities you think might be inspired by its contents. For those of you who will not be with your children or grandchildren on Sunday, my thoughts are with you.
A very big thank you to Professor Joan Durrant for sharing this publication with us.