Eleven-year-old Chinmayan R.S. voiced children’s concern about war: “They destroy the very base of humanity,” he said. “Creating dialogue between countries can maintain peace at a global level. Now, as a child representative, I urge this august audience to pledge today to commit ourselves to peace and let nonviolence be our path, and peace be our destination.”
Fourteen-year-old Ellyanne Chlystun-Githae Wanjiku, from Kenya, a well-known young climate activist, also spoke of how wars affect children the most.
“For example we have the wars that are happening in Sudan, in the Middle East, and Congo, and mainly the population affected the most is children, and this affects a future that might not ever happen,” she said. “We won’t have a future and we might as well call an end to the human race if we don’t help the children.”
Wanjiku recently completed a project on Nelson Mandela. “He talked about equality and about human rights—he talked about every single human,” she said. “For me, child participation is a really huge topic that we should cover.”
She pointed out that, in most countries, world leaders tend to be in a private room. “You never know what goes on in these private rooms,” she said. “Nelson Mandala’s message was simple: Every human being has equal rights and dignity.”
Eighteen-year-old Foday Bangura moderated part of the discussion, calling for a moment of silence for children who have been killed by the impact of climate change. He also explained the importance of implementing the new authoritative guidance on children and climate released this year by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – the so-called “General Comment 26 (GC26) on children and climate”. He felt that before this new guidance was developed, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was incomplete. “The convention does not speak to the value of child participation when it comes to issues of the environment and climate change,” he said. Hence the GC26 is vital today for child rights implementation. “Do not fear for us—include us. After all, the future the adults are discussing—is ours.”
Rev. Fred Nyabera, director of the Interfaith Initiative to End Child Poverty at Arigatou International, shared reflections about ethnical values that guide faith-based efforts. “Poverty intensifies the exposure to environmental threats mentioned by the speakers here,” he said. “We must recognize that this vicious cycle affects not just this generation but future ones too.”He urged upholding human dignity. “We must embody compassion for suffering children and solidarity with vulnerable communities,” he said.
Frederique Seidel, WCC programme executive for Child Rights, spoke about how the proliferation of misinformation on global warming contributes to various forms of violence against children.
“In what ways can we address the spread of misinformation effectively, considering its impact on public perceptions, policymaking, and social development?” she was asked. “When the Churches’ Commitments to Children programme was launched in 2017, it was the children consulted across the world who urged WCC to make inter-generational climate justice a central pillar.”
She noted that over 75% of CO2 emissions come from fossil fuel industry, as documented by the International Energy Agency. “We need to reassure children that adults are doing all they can to halt the life-threatening ongoing increase of CO2 emissions,” Seidel said. “But new disinformation campaigns are spreading, and marketing campaigns continue growing the demand for fossil fuels.”
Stopping disinformation about global warming is about saving children’s lives, she urged. “Many people in decision-making seats are victims of disinformation on global warming,” she said. “By engaging with our banks and pension funds, asking them to ensure our assets do not finance fossil fuel expansion, we can help billions of young people worldwide to lift a far too heavy burden from their shoulders.”
Seidel also outlined how to promote hope for children through legal efforts.
“Brave children from churches are engaged in lawsuits, to stop the consequences of disinformation,” she said. “Your faith plays a crucial role to ensure that we meet the small window of time left to halt the ongoing increase CO2 emissions.”