Remarks by Distinguished Guests
Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia
General Secretary, World Council of Churches
Although unable today to meet personally with Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto and honoured participants to the Second Forum of the GNRC from all over the world, committed to the right and dignity of the child, it gives me great pleasure to greet you as you begin your deliberations of how to further your work, how to build coalitions between people of different faiths, how to ensure that the child, the only irrefutable evidence of our future, remains at the centre of our efforts.
The motto and guiding star of Myochikai is "Prayer and Practice." This is, it seems to me, a proper departure for our commitment to the rights of the child as it is for interfaith co-operation. The same thrust reflected in the old Latin saying, "Ora et labora", is in fact the very origin of the main streams flowing together to build the World Council of Churches. These movements among Christians in the previous century were Faith and Order, a theological current, and Life and Work, a practical work for peace and justice. Today they correspond in many ways to the commitment of people of different faiths to seeking together how to address global threats to life and cooperate against destructive forces. They do this while also listening to the spiritual insights of the other and sometimes coming together to pray in the presence of each other for life, peace, justice and human dignity. Prayer and Practice is both a call to action and an invitation to affirm the spirituality of our different religious traditions.
Prayer and Practice belong together also as a warning against prayer without action and action without prayer. It happens, and we need always to be aware of it, that religious people sometimes hide befind a prayer as a refuge against action. We as religious people are also challenged to take a concrete stand against the denigration of the child. We could do this in several ways: by addressing with insight and analysis the issue of child labour, and challenging a society that does nothing against child prostitution or looks the other way when street children are abused or justifies the evil of child soldiers. Prayer must not become a substitute to speaking out or acting in protest against those who use and abuse children. But we are also children of religious traditions pointing to another realm, a realm of spiritual treasures and values, of a commitment that goes beyond that which is immediately obvious and purely functional.
The WCC congratulates Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, the Arigatou Foundation and the GNRC, a network of people of different religions committed to the rights and dignity of the child. The WCC counts itself as an old friend of this interreligious endeavour having been part of it since its inception four years ago. Many things have happened since then. There are regional manifestations of this network, there is an office established here in Geneva for furthering and cultivating contacts with the UN, international and non-governmental organisations and there are now plans for the establishment of an Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children. We see this Council as a possibility of involving children and young people in this particular dimension of interreligious cooperation. It could become a forum from where we not only talk about children and young people, but act on their behalf as well. On that basis we could express our conviction that, given the chance, young people and children would contribute to a world where respect for the other, the integrity of the other and the commitment of old and young is valued and cherished. I hope the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children will become a forum for innovative and well-founded initiatives that help us consider children and young people as providers of a moral fibre to the societies they live in.
The message of an interreligious conference, called by the WCC some years ago, contained some reflections on the issue of education, which I think has something to contribute to the work of the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children. It said: "We had come with a modest project of sharing as persons of different religious communities the values and concepts of learning. We discovered that we not only had common problems in the area of religious education, but that we needed each other both to clarify the issues and to seek ways to address them. ...Our religious education and learnings would never be complete unless we have found ways to understand and make sense of one another's spiritual traditions as part of our own spiritual journeys and adventures of faith." It seems to me that through the establishment of the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children we are one step closer to realising this vision.