The Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) was inaugurated in May 2000 by a group of 294 religious leaders and grassroots child-rights workers representing all of world’s major religious traditions and 33 different nations. Deeply concerned over the suffering of the world’s children, they gathered in Tokyo to launch the GNRC at the invitation of the Arigatou Foundation (now Arigatou International), an international non-governmental organization which strives to bring people from all walks of life together to build a better world for children. Arigatou International, an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), continues to support the member-driven development of the GNRC.
Held May 16-18, 2000, the First Forum of the GNRC had as its theme “Prayer and Practice for the Future of the Children.” The 297 participants from 33 countries included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Shintoists, Zoroastrians and members of indigenous and other religious traditions. The uniting force behind the Forum was the participants shared commitment to work at both leadership and grassroots levels to alleviate the suffering of children all over the world.
Since its founding, the GNRC has played an important role in linking religious communities' work for children with that of international agencies, governments, and other actors which do not necessarily operate from a faith-based perspective. In this capacity, the GNRC was invited to deliver a statement to the United Nations General Assembly during the Special Session on Children in May 2002. Speaking on behalf of the GNRC, Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, President of the Arigatou Foundation, committed to developing a global program of ethics education for children, supporting the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child through prayer and action, and mobilizing religious communities in the fight against child poverty.
In 2004, at the GNRC Second Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland, the first of the three commitments got underway in earnest with the establishment of the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children. Demonstrating significant growth since the First Forum, the Second Forum, which took place May 17-19, 2004, brought together 359 religious leaders and representatives from grassroots NGOs from 7 major religions, 68 countries in 7 world regions, including 38 children and young people.
Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, Representative of the Arigatou Foundation, met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in October 2007, and received Mr. Ban's pledge of support and encouragement from the UN system (see news article).
In 2008, the GNRC held its Third Forum in Hiroshima, Japan, bringing together 353 religious leaders and others committed to children's well-being from around the globe, including 42 children and young people. Participants came from 63 countries in 8 world regions, representing the Baha'i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and many other religious and spiritual traditions. At the Third Forum, participants celebrated the concrete outcome of Rev. Miyamoto’s first commitment, formally launching Learning to Live Together: An Intercultural and Interfaith Programme of Ethics Education, and addressed the second commitment by proposing a new World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. Then United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro represented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Forum. Also in attendance was then UNCEF Executive Director Ms. Ann Veneman. The theme of the Forum was “Learning to Share: Values, Action, Hope.”
In June 2012, the GNRC held its Fourth Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Forum brought together 470 participants, including 49 children and religious leaders from around the world with United Nations officials and government leaders, including President Jakaya M. Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania. The theme of the Forum was “Ending Poverty. Enriching Children: Inspire. Act. Change.” The Forum participants addressed the third commitment by launching the new Interfaith Initiative to End Child Poverty.
From early on through 2012, the development of the GNRC was greatly facilitated by the tireless work of a dedicated team of volunteer coordinators, each of whom served GNRC members in a specific world region. More information on this regional history is available here.
In 2012, the Arigatou Foundation changed its name to Arigatou International, and it continues to support the GNRC today. In 2013, the GNRC Secretariat moved from Tokyo, Japan, to Nairobi, Kenya, as Arigatou International opened a new office in Nairobi, adding to its existing bases in Tokyo, Geneva, and New York.