Joint commitment and action for children on the move were at the heart of discussions as representatives of religious communities and faith-based organizations gathered in Rome on 16-18 October.
Organized by World Vision International and supported by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the ACT Alliance, Islamic Relief Worldwide and many others, the event “Faith Action for Children on the Move” brought together almost 200 participants from 80 different organizations to discuss how faith communities can help end violence and suffering experienced by migrant and refugee children.
So what are the unique contributions faith-based organizations (FBOs) can make to protect the many million children currently on the move across the globe?
Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, took stock of the discussion from the recent WCC-Vatican jointly organized “World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” (18-20 September) and in the current event.
“We need to start from the fundamental basis of all people having equal dignity and rights, and remembering that this basic position is non-negotiable,” said Prove. “We need to remember that the Biblical narrative itself is one of people on the move, of a calling to welcome the stranger, so that we can help build a narrative of love, and hope.”
“Faith communities can do much more in speaking up,” said Nyamal Tutdeal who joined the event as a youth representative, herself a former South Sudanese refugee and child on the move.
Shedding light on the many complexities facing children on the move, whether while they are seeking refuge or as they settle into a new community, Nyamal added, “It’s all about making sure we can have a conversation. To have a narrative, and to help people see themselves in that story. That’s what’s going to change hearts.”
Looking forward, as the forum formulates an action plan to strengthen long-term commitment and partnership, Prove noted, “one essential theme I see surfacing throughout our conversations is the importance of actually listening to children. They have agency, they have a voice, and if we listen we can learn from their experiences and insights.”
Children on the Move forum gathers in Rome (WCC press release of 16 October 2018)