Second Forum

The Second Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) came to a successful conclusion in Geneva, Switzerland on May 19, 2004, after three days of enlightening speeches, intense discussions in regional groups, and warm fellowship among adults and young people from 7 major religions, 68 countries, and 7 world regions. The Forum brought together 359 people from around the world, including 38 young people.

The Forum opened with a message from Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, inaugurator of the GNRC and President of the Arigatou Foundation, which was followed by remarks from distinguished guests, His Eminence Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President, Pontifical Council of the Family, Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General, World Conference of Religions for Peace, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches (presented by Rev. Dr. Hans Ucko), Rev. Nichiko Niwano, President, Rissho Kosei-kai (presented by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi), and a special presentation by Mr. Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF.

Next came keynote addresses by His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, Mme. Claire Brisset, Ombudsperson for Children of the French Republic and Rev. Zendo Matsunaga, Special Representative of Japan Buddhist Federation, after which participants divided up into discussion groups by world region. (See the Forum program, for more details on events at the Forum.)

The highlight of the second day of the Forum were presentations on the challenging realities facing children by three young people, Ms. Joanna Naegeli of Switzerland, Ms. Martha Naigwe of Uganda, Ms. Tamia Lema of Ecuador, and a presentation to the plenary session by all 38 young participants of their own Message of Peace. After this, the young people joined the regional sessions with the adults.

On the third day, reports on the discussions in the regional groups were presented for South Asia, Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Middle East, East Asia, Latin America, and Europe. The regional groups made significant progress in working out action plans and recommendations to follow up on after returning home from the Forum, and much fruit is expected from this work in the lives of the children of each region.

This was followed by the signing of a project cooperation agreement between the GNRC and UNICEF for the conduct of a study on the perspectives of major religions on children, and the announcement of the establishment of the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children. Congratulatory messages from Council members Professor Hans Kung, President, Global Ethic Foundation, and Mr. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, President, Fundación Servicio Paz y Justicia were read to the plenary.

The Forum came to a close with a warm expression of gratitude from the participants to the Arigatou Foundation staff and volunteers who had facilitated the proceedings.

Immediately following the close of the Forum, participants went to the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre for the Interfaith Prayer for Peace, where representatives of the religions present at the Forum offered prayers for children and for world peace.