It was at the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly in Busan in 2013 where my journey with the Churches’ Commitments to Children - or CC2C for short - started. Thirty-eight churches came together, formed a working group and came out with a joint declaration entitled “Putting Children at the Centre.” This declaration essentially called upon the WCC to ensure that children were not shunted to the side but took their rightful place at the centre of the churches’ plans, activities and social fabric where they belong.
By providence, this task was given to the WCC Commission of Churches on International Affairs, where I’m a member. At our first commission meeting after the assembly, I got the honour of being nominated to chair a working group on human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights and freedom of religion and or belief where the task to develop the commitments was then placed. From 2015 to 2017, the working group undertook extensive consultations involving children themselves from at least five different continents, the clergy, development partners and practitioners and the central committee of the WCC. This culminated in WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit sending out the commitments in March 2017 to all WCC member churches.
I believe that the CC2C is a living document subject to modifications, updating and adaptation by the churches to suit their own unique needs and requirements in the different environments.
Since then we’ve had an overwhelming response from churches across the globe acknowledging the commitments and happy that the WCC was able to make this intervention. For some churches, the commitments reinforced work already ongoing and for others, the commitments brought about a new dimension and area of work.
The commitments focus on child protection and promotion, child participation and climate change and this was a challenge to some in other regions who felt strongly that other themes such as migration and HIV could also have been covered. Closely linked to this is the reality that some churches aren’t aware of these commitments. As I and other members of the commission have travelled in various regions, we’ve discovered that although the commitments were sent out, some churches are still unaware of their existence. This means that there’s a need to continue finding ways of popularising them and making them part of the churches’ programs.
Through this work the WCC has managed to develop critical partnerships that will hopefully continue the dissemination of the commitments. One such partnership has been with UNICEF who has partnered with us from the beginning, providing invaluable technical, material and financial support to developing and disseminating the commitments. Using the expansive country offices and our councils of churches, this partnership continues to have positive developments for our communities. Malawi and Tanzania are examples where this partnership is now bearing fruit as more and more member churches access information and support.
I’ve also managed to present the commitments to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This committee monitors the implementation of the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child. The charter draws heavily from the Convention on the Rights of the Child that we celebrate today for the changes it has brought to the well-being of the child the world over.
Sadly not all children are enjoying the rights conferred to them under this charter. The CC2C try to bridge this gap, understanding and acknowledging the important role the church plays in so many countries. Not only are they responsible for the spiritual well-being of the child, churches especially here in Africa also run schools and hospitals where adherence to these commitments will certainly make a positive difference in the lives of the children and allow them to enjoy their biblical rights and those conferred by the charter.