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New study illuminates children’s rights, hopes and burdens

19 November 2019

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit reflected on the 19 November launch of “Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-Religious Study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” a new report developed by Arigatou International in collaboration with several partner organizations and advocates.

“As churches,” Tveit said, “we have to and try to follow the example of Jesus to set children in the centre of our attention, to give them what they need, and to acknowledge them as a model for all of us in our faith, hope and love.”

As persons of faith, Tveit said, we must also acknowledge the deeply ambiguous history of religious traditions about children. “This has led historically to familial abuse and clerical abuse, to a patriarchal and authoritarian grip on children’s lives and sexuality and life possibilities, to a stifling of educational and other opportunities for girls and young women, and to arranged marriages that are more like property transactions,” Tveit said. “That patriarchal legacy continues indirectly to influence religious and popular culture today, and it is part of the deep cultural assumptions that provide excuses or cover for abuse of and violence against children, for unjust child labor practices, or for trafficking of children.”

Tveit urged persons of faith to understand and own this ambiguous legacy. “We must repent of it,” he said, adding, on a more hopeful note: "Our shared affirmation of the rights and gifts of children, and acknowledgment of our responsibility toward them, can most certainly be the spark for interfaith or interfaith collaboration in securing and expanding the rights and dignity of children and improving their lives.”

Children everywhere exhibit such optimism and growth yet are also so vulnerable, Tveit concluded “They carry some of the heaviest burdens of human conflict and injustice,” he said. “They need a reconciled world.”

The study was shaped by a series of global and regional multi-religious roundtables and other consultations held with diverse religious leaders, child-rights advocates and other experts.

Read the report here