Reports

The Realisation of a World without Armed Conflicts For the Right to Grow Up Unharmed and Free of Fear

Prayer & Practice for the Future of Children

Study Group on Theme 1:
The Realisation of a World without Armed Conflicts

Focus: The right to grow up unharmed and free of fear

Study Group Report
Chairperson: Ingeborg Jack
Co-chairperson: Ibrahim Abdul Mu fin Clayton Ramey
Secretary: Razia S Ismail
 

The study group had over 50 participants. At its sessions,  held on 16th and 17th May 2000,  the group  took stock of the situation of children in many settings of conflict, deprivation, exploitation and insecurity, reviewed underlying causes such as exploitative political policies of those who wield power, and examined both the performance and the responsibility of religious people. The group heard from two resource speakers, exchanged perceptions on the questions for discussion and formulated ideas for follow-up to the Forum. Participants worked together through the process, moving from their diversity of cultural and faith backgrounds to the common ground of shared concern for children.

The study group recorded its sincere appreciation of the initiative of the Arigatou Foundation in launching the GNRC and convening its First Forum, making it possible for religious people and NGOs and activists concerned with child rights to meet and move towards collective endeavour.

In a special statement, the group expressed its concern at the fact that religious leadership, institutions and communities had not in general spoken out strongly enough in support of children at risk in situations of conflict and insecurity.  

Statement of Contrition and Commitment:

'We, members of many of the world's religions, are conscious of the ways in which we have failed to live up to the basic teachings and values of our religious faiths. This failure has contributed to great injustice against peoples and nations, and tremendous suffering of children around the world. We are painfully aware that each of us has to change. We commit ourselves to active efforts to create the conditions which will ensure that all our children can live and flourish in a more peaceful and just world.'

The group discussed priorities for advocacy and action by religious people and child rights supporters in the context of four major questions assigned for study:

  •  What religious people are prepared to do, according to the basic teachings and values of the various religious faiths, to help save the lives of children suffering from the effects of armed conflicts.
  •  Whether religious people can come together in a joint effort to demand that all member states of the United Nations  sign, ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction, and to press for the removal of the 100 million landmines now deployed.
  • Whether religious communities will come to the aid of the children suffering terribly under the weight of economic sanctions, which have effects to those of weapons of mass destruction, and whether they can demand respect for the rights of these children to live an ordinary life and to protection from harm, as stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Whether religious organisations represented at the First Forum will be willing to initiate financial support for the rehabilitation of children who have suffered from armed conflict, to help undo the damage done to them so that they can re-enter their communities and lead normal lives.

Calling for commitment and action on all these issues, the study group recognised that religious people as well as  civil society at large must advocate change in the underlying policies and attitudes that result in oppression, division and conflict and the consequent suffering, especially of children. Among such factors, the group identified the mounting problems of poverty, of North-South disparity, of the adverse impact of economic reforms, indebtedness and debt repayment burdens, and loss of livelihood, food security and social stability. Citing the  trade interests of arms manufacturers and merchants in fostering conflicts, the group condemned the steady sale of arms and armaments to poorer nations, and the distortion of budgets of many developing nations due to repaying debt and defence bills.

In moving resolutions for adoption by the First Forum of GNRC, the Study Group on Theme I records its own commitment and resolve to carry out or act upon these resolutions. It also records its intention to follow up on the recommendations accepted by the group.  

The Study Group adopts and moves the following resolutions for acceptance by the First Forum of the GNRC:

  • Resolution 1: Be it resolved that the GNRC, meeting at its First Forum in Tokyo, on 18th May 2000, calls for the cancellation of external debt, in accordance with the global appeal of Jubilee 2000? "Break the chains of debt."
  • Resolution 2: Be it resolved that we as a coalition of inter-faith organisations will petition those governments that have not acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to do so, and to support the Convention
  • Resolution 3: Be it resolved that members of this Study Group present to their national legislative bodies the parallel demand to decrease military funding, and to create means to make peacetime economies profitable. In addition, resolved that we demand the cessation of arms sale, export and trade as national policies.

Major Concerns:

Recalling his own experience of trauma as a child soldier, Child Soldiers:

Jose Caetano of Mozambique stressed the need for such children to have psychological support and counseling, and "healing assistance" from a caring and reassuring community. Calling on religious people to work collectively and globally to prevent the use of children in war, he made the following recommendations:

a.     Massive investment in education;
b.     State and NGO provision of healing support to child soldiers trying to return to normal life and childhood;
c.     Provision of basic services to the people;
d.     Development of methods and mechanisms for peaceful resolution of disputes.

He urged the GNRC to make world leaders conscious and responsible for the child's condition. The study group supported these recommendations.

Child Refugees:

Chikako Saito of UNHCR spoke of the challenge of helping the women and children who compose 80 per cent of today's refugee population of 22.3 million, and the special need for measures to help child refugees. Listing child soldiers, children separated from their families, and children injured, sick or maimed as three main concerns, she called attention to the following needs:

a.     UNHCR is in great need of funds for its measures to provide or restore education services to refugee children;
b.     The best interests of the child must be kept paramount when trying to organize repatriation, or choose among local or third country resettlement options or foster
c.     placement either locally or in the home country. The Study Group noted these problems as serious concerns. 

Children under economic sanctions:

Ibrahim Ramey of the USA drew attention to the devastating effects on the children of Iraq as a result of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and the use of Depleted Uranium on missiles dropped in bombardment of that country. Describing the situation as  "genocidal," and part of a "war system," he recommended:

a.        People of faith must oppose the war system and work to dismantle the institution of war;

b.        Economic sanctions against Iraq must be lifted now.

Children under military occupation:

A film on the Gaza Strip showed the tensions of the daily lives of Palestinian children there. Dr Mohd Ali el-Zeer of Palestine sought support for NGO and community efforts to help build a generation of children and youth who had inner strength. Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom of Jerusalem said  children of both the Israeli and Palestinian sides are influenced by the protracted atmosphere of conflict and young people expect to have to take to arms. He called for promotion of peaceful negotiation to find solutions to disagreements.

In general support of these calls to action, the Study Group received the following suggestions, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that education conveys positive values and respect for difference:

  • Children should be taught to be conscientious objectors;
  • To counter the tendency to glamourise war an effort should be made to glamourise peace;
  • The idea of a spiritual peace corps enlisting youth should be explored.
  •  There should be conscious and continuing re-education of adults.
  • The habit of "demonising" a foe or adversary simply because they differ from us or are different, must be curbed; we should educate to show that the "others" are also our children.
  •  A way should be found to detect and eradicate all xenophobic doctrines from school books everywhere


The violence and intolerance in society evident in many countries and the influence of a culture of violence on the choice of force as an option was noted as a matter of serious concern.      

Members of the group deplored the role of mass media, and electronic media in particular in propagating violent, aggressive and brutal behaviour and images.

Religious people's action for children affected by conflict:

The Study Group adopts and moves the following resolutions for acceptance by the First Forum of the GNRC:

  • Resolution 4:  Be it resolved that this forum calls for the full recognition of the human rights of all children who live under military occupation, especially the right to be protected against arbitrary arrest, torture and killing.
  • Resolution 5:  Be it resolved that this forum calls for  prevention of the recruitment, conscription and use of children in war, and their protection against recruitment or conscription as soldiers, and be it further resolved that religious leaders and religious people work collectively and globally for this prevention and protection.  

Banning and removing Landmines, and curbing War Technologies:

The Study Group adopts and moves the following resolution for acceptance by the First Forum of the GNRC:

  • Resolution 6: Be it resolved that this forum, recognising the obvious vulnerability of children to all types of unexploded armaments, calls for the use of landmines to be banned and stopped. Be it further resolved that this forum and the GNRC joins with international organizations that are calling for the expedient removal of landmines left to threaten children with maiming or death. Be it further resolved that this forum condemns the manufacture and use of depleted uranium and other war technologies that primariloy damage children even after wars have ended, and calls for an end to this manufacture and use.


The Study Group commends the following recommendation to the First Forum of the GNRC for its acceptance:

  • Recommendation 1: That the GNRC promote support for a fund to help (a) train mine removal experts, and  (b) support research into mechanical mine removal techniques.    

Aiding children suffering under economic sanctions:

The Study Group adopts and moves the following resolution for acceptance by the First Forum of the GNRC:

  • Resolution 7:  Be it resolved that this forum condemns the use of economic sanctions as a political weapon or a means of political pressure, and calls for the immediate lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Be it further resolved that this forum calls for the rights of children in nations under sanctions to be fully protected in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Financial and other support for children who have suffered from armed conflict:

The Study Group commends the following recommendations to the First Forum for its acceptance:

  • Recommendation 2: That there be significantly   increased investment in education, with conscious attention to better socialization and inculcation of  positive values of tolerance, respect for diversity and non-violence .
  • Recommendation 3: That resources be allocated, and skills and infrastructure developed, for improved provision of caring and counseling supports and services for children attempting to re-enter normal civilian life.  
  • Recommendation 4:  That investment be promoted and resources provided for better availability of information.
  • Recommendation 5:  Recognising that information access and exchange are crucial for better understanding, that  investment be made in providing for children and youth to have improved access and linkage for communication, including electronic and tele-communication.  
  • Recommendation 6:  Recognising that mutual trust and understanding are enhanced by first-hand contact and learning, that investment be made in exchange programmes to enable children and young people to visit each other in their life-settings.
  • Recommendation 7:  Religious leaders should build and invest in human contact with children, and spend time with them in play and recreation to promote non-violence.

Children's Leadership:

Welcoming the presence and participation of children at the First Forum, and recognising their leadership in highlighting key issues and identifying critical actions to address them, the Study Group places on record its deep appreciation of the children's contribution. It invites the partnership of children in the new initiatives for advocacy and action that may grow out of the First Forum of the GNRC.

In recognition of children's leadership and positive power, the Study Group especially welcomes the forthcoming Conference for Children in the Coming Generation being convened by the Arigatou Foundation ( 25 ? 27 July 2000)

There was general support for the view that children involved in the movement for their own rights can and should enjoy opportunities to determine their own agenda, methods and priorities through their own deliberations and discussion.

The Study Group adopts and moves the following resolutions for acceptance by the First Forum of the GNRC:

  • Resolution 8: Be it resolved that the GNRC and this study group support forums of children where they can themselves discuss and decide priorities for action to address their problems, and be it further resolved that this study group and GNRC will give the highest priority to following the children's own resolutions. 
  • Resolution 9: Be it resolved that the concerns, conclusions, resolutions and recommendations of this forum on the theme of the realisation of a world without armed conflict and the child's right to grow up unharmed and free of fear be forwarded to the Conference for Children in the Coming Generation, for its consideration and acceptance.
  • Resolution 10:  Be it resolved that the GNRC and forum will support and pursue the development of an inter-religious children's peace corps, to promote interchange among children of the world, especially in areas where children have suffered from armed conflict. Be it further resolved that this corps be organized on the following principles? universal equality, non-violence, and service. Be it further resolved that this proposal be brought before the Conference for Children in the Coming Generation for its consideration.

General Recommendations:

The study group also accepted the following recommendations, and proposes these to the First Forum of GNRC for acceptance.

(a)  Commending the Arigatou Foundation's initiative to create an internet connection for networking, and noting that many children and youth presently live in areas and settings unserved by electric power and / or telephone line connections required to use internet, recommended that the Foundation encourage and work with other development agencies to build up the infrastructure to bring such children into the network.

(b)  Recommended that funding of munitions must be stopped; budget priorities must be reordered.

 (c) Recommended that schools be built for all children.

(d)  Recommended that children be encouraged to help each other.

(e)  Recommended that cultural exchanges be organised for children.

(f)   Recommended that GNRC facilitate an early start to further networking by providing all forum participants of this forum a full list of participant names, addresses, email addresses and information on activities related to their work for children.

(g)  Recommended that members of each faith tradition prepare texts articulating the ideas of their respective traditions concerning the rights and well being of children, and post these on the GNRC home page.

(h)  Recommended that the declaration and related action statements of the First Forum of GNRc be made available in at least the following three languages: English, Japanese, Spanish.

Suggestions for Action:

The following suggestions for action were also received in the course of the Study Group's deliberations, and are shared with the forum:

  • Organise a timed inter-religious youth march worldwide to call for universal acceptance and implementation of the CRC, and a stop to all sanctions that adversely affect children.
  • Publicise the risk that easy availability of small arms and light guns poses for children, as well as the idea of adults buying such guns from children in order to remove the danger from their possession.  
  • Ban toy guns and war games, and campaign against them globally.
  • Join and support "Abolition 2000," the anti-nuclear network to abolish all nuclear weapons.
  • Make the child forum a regular event.
  • Persuade Somalia to sign and accede to the CRC.
  • Send the First Forum results and action appeals to the G-8 Summit (being held in Japan in July).