Testimonials from Anni Tacco, advisor for child rights and safeguarding at FELM, highlighted that 20 November—the day of the symposium—is an important date, marking the adoption in 1989 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child—the most widely ratified UN Convention.
Despite this convention, as Tacco noted, violence against children is growing worldwide. “We are witnessing the highest number of conflicts and refugees since 1945 and, as we all know, every war is a war against children,” she said.
This morning, hundreds of millions of children around the world woke up to a crisis on their doorstep,” according to UNICEF. “More than 1 in 5 are likely to be experiencing mental health conditions,” the opening of the symposium reminded.
Tacco added that Gaza has become a graveyard for children and that more than 1 million children in Gaza have a critical water crisis. “In all wars, it is children who suffer first and suffer most,” she said.
"The Churches’ Commitments to Children have never been as important as today,” Tacco stressed. “It is an action of churches and partners uniting for children in the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. Its three pillars are keeping children safe, listening to children, and protecting the planet for and with children.”
“Children don’t have as much power as adults but they have the same right to have opinions and to have these opinions be heard and taken seriously,” Tacco said. “Participation empowers children and improves their self esteem,” she added. “One of the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respect for the children’s views.” Testimonials from churches and partners illustrated the implementation of the commitments at grassroots levels.
For example, Chetra Im from the M’lub Russey organization shared how churches play a key role in protecting children during flash flooding caused by climate change in Cambodia.
Michael Marwa, from Child Helpline International, shared about the crucial help from churches to share information about the toll free child helplines. These are available across the world to support children facing difficulties, including from the consequences of global warming.
"Our planet has just had the hottest October ever documented,” Tacco raised.
Frederique Seidel, WCC programme executive for Child Rights, explained the reason the Churches’ Commitments to Children programme puts a major emphasis on climate solutions, which are vital to protect all aspects of children’s rights.
She shared how Ellyanne Chlystun-Githae Wanjiku, a 13-year-old climate champion from a church in Kenya, asked the WCC to help children meet French president Emmanuel Macron at the Global New Financing Pact Summit last June—to deliver a children’s plea for climate-responsible banking.
“For me, that was a little miracle,” said Seidel, who supported Wanjiku and other children to deliver the message during what would normally be a tightly closed meeting, reserved to heads of state. “Ellyanne and the other children just prayed their way through to gates, entered the room without any objections, and Emmanuel Macron did listen to Ellyanne for several minutes.”
The children are now awaiting an official response to their plea. “Children’s voices have to be supported and embraced throughout the world,” Seidel stressed.
“Responsible climate-based banking and legal action by faith-based actors and partners, play a key role in giving solid hope,” she concluded.