Participating in a new World Vision campaign called “It takes a World to End Violence against Children,” World Council of Churches (WCC) deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri spoke at a Geneva-based event on 13 June, reflecting that churches and organizations working together can prevent and address “a tragic reality.”
Speakers included children who told their stories, led the discussion, and offered their views on what defines violence and how best to prevent it. Speakers from the United Nations also spoke as well as joined in a public dialogue with the children.
The participants underscored the importance of meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a way of ending violence against children.
Phiri shared an update on “Churches’ Commitments to Children,” a project started by a partnership with the WCC and UNICEF in 2015. This year, WCC formally invited its member churches to address the needs of children as an integral part of the ecumenical commitment to the pilgrimage of justice and peace.
Already, Phiri said, 180 of 348 WCC member churches have confirmed their readiness for mutual support around the urgent efforts to end violence against children. Many more will join by the end of this year, and World Vision is helping to build that capacity.
“Many churches are supporting refugee children, helping former child soldiers to return to recover from trauma, preventing child labour and in many places churches are helping children who suffer from domestic violence,” she said. “We have mapped and analysed strong examples in which we see how collaboration between us all makes a difference in children’s lives.”
Among the actions suggested in Churches’ Commitments to Children are: supporting positive parenting by promoting non-violent discipline, ending female genital mutilation and early marriage, advocating for toll-free helplines for children in every country, and publicly reporting the situation of children.
Phiri also described a number of other WCC programs and initiatives that not only support prevention of violence against children but also move toward meeting the SDGs.
“All children need to be informed where they can find safe spaces and confidential support if they are faced with violence,” said Phiri.