Faith Communities Across the World Commit to End Violence Against Children on the Move

The world’s religious communities and spiritual leaders together with representatives from international and grassroots organizations and the Government of Italy met on 16th – 19th October 2018 under the aegis of the Faith Action for Children on the Move Global Partners Forum in Rome, Italy, to discuss, reflect and contribute to addressing violence against children on the move. Children on the move include all children who have migrated or been forcibly displaced across borders (refugees) or within the borders of their own countries (internally displaced).

The Forum was co-organized by a diverse group of faith-based organisations including ACT Alliance, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International, Anglican Alliance, Arigatou International, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, Mennonite World Conference, Micah Global, The Salvation Army, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, World Council of Churches, World Evangelical Alliance and World Vision.

The Forum reviewed the evidence and approaches on how to work as faith actors to promote peace and sustainable development among displaced families. Three themes emerged which shaped the discussions and the collective action plan:

  • Spiritual support to children and caregivers as a source of healing and resilience
  • Strengthening the continuum of protection for children on the move
  • Building peaceful societies and combating xenophobia

During her remarks, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children (SRSG-VAC), Ms. Marta Santos Pais, shared the staggering reality that 28 million children were vulnerable, unprotected and away from their homes. She asserted that the United Nations strongly believes that No child on the move should be subjected to violence.

"Children's freedom from violence is a moral and legal imperative that cannot be met with complacency. Together with faith actors, we must all safeguard children's rights, including children on the move who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.” – Ms. Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children (SRSG-VAC).

The Secretary General, Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, participated in one of the regional panel discussions on 'Regional Focus: Middle East and Africa,’ that explored the need to secure the rights and well-being of children on the move in the two regions. He shared his experience in sustainable conflict resolution, prevention of violent extremism and interfaith dialogue specifically the work of Arigatou International in preventing violent extremism and transforming conflicts in which mostly young people, including children on the move, are involved in Africa.

Dr. Ali spoke of the need to protect the world’s children from Violent Extremism, Gang Violence and Organized Crime; Nurture Spirituality and End Violence in Child Upbringing; and End Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children as ascribed by the Panama Commitments on Ending Violence Against Children. He shared some of the programs that Arigatou International supports in the Greater Horn and Eastern Africa including Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism (BRAVE) and Community Resilience Against Violent Extremism (CRAVE), which are intra- and interfaith peace-building programs that help faith communities, and especially the younger members, to understand and effectively respond to the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.

Dr. Ali affirmed Arigatou International’s belief that transformed religious and spiritual communities can offer moral teachings and model practices to prevent, heal, reduce and ultimately end violence against children. “It is high time we protect children on the move across borders through spiritual and psychosocial support.” Dr. Ali noted.

Ms. Silvia Mazzarelli, GNRC Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean chaired a regional panel on the Americas to analyse the main problems affecting children on the move in the region, the main challenges to effective faith-related work for care of children on the move, and discuss concrete interventions to be included in the Forum’s Action Plan. The panel was an opportunity to present the Alliance for the Protection of Children in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico as an example of faith-based partnership to address the problem of violence against children in the sub-region.

There is great opportunity in combined effort; I believe that by working together we can end violence against migrant, refugee, and displaced children and their families across the world.” – Ms. Silvia Mazzarelli, GNRC Coordinator for Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region.

Ms. Rebeca Ríos-Kohn, Director, Arigatou International – New York and Ms. María Lucía Uribe, Director, Arigatou International – Geneva also participated in the Forum and facilitated group discussions on the three thematic areas of the Forum.

Concluding the three-day Forum, partners of the Faith Action Forum for children on the move adopted an Action Plan as a concrete way forward to increase awareness, deepen collaboration among faith actors, improve delivery, and scale up interventions to protect children on the move. Furthermore, participants also called on governments and other State actors to adopt a set of policy recommendations to work together towards the protection of children on the move and ensure that children’s best interests are the primary consideration in all actions concerning them.