Pope Francis I
Dear Holy Father Francisco,
With joy and hope we receive your visit to our Latin America. We thank you for being a source of light and inspiration for thousands of people who, like us, are fighting for the rights and dignity of every child. With your arrival, we feel renewed in faith and in spirit to continue to believe that a better world is possible.
On this occasion we invite you to support our initiatives for the welfare of the children of this wonderful region.
We are part of the Global Network of Religions for Children. The GNRC was born in 2000 as an initiative of the Arigatou International Foundation and supported by the Holy See. GNRC’s mission is to promote a global alliance of religious organizations and people of faith and goodwill in dialogue, prayer and action, for the rights and welfare of children.
The Latin America and the Caribbean region is sadly a stage for different types of extreme violence that disproportionately affect children, adolescents and youth. It is the region with the highest proportion of homicide victims under 20 years (UNICEF, 2014) and very high levels of “violent discipline” used in the home. Therefore, as GNRC, our efforts in the region are especially aimed at the prevention and elimination of the various forms of violence affecting children in the region.
We firmly believe that any form of violence is unjustifiable and all violence is preventable. Therefore, through our volunteer work, we have made a strong commitment to promote spirituality in children, along with non-violent values, raise public awareness to transform attitudes that condone or normalize violence against children and girls, one of 12 general recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children (2006). We consider impoverishment, social inequality and exclusion as deep situations of violence, with causes and solutions.
The basis of what we do is working with the family, convinced of the importance of early childhood work and the emphasis on a sense of participation and citizenship among children and young people to build a culture of peace. We work through the implementation of programs such as Ethics Education and Promotion of the Rights of the Child.
We celebrate on particular the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20th. That day is, for us, the World Day of Prayer and Action, a day when all people of faith reaffirm the rights of children, the commitment to the prevention and elimination of violence against children, and an opportunity to raise awareness of this challenge. We invite you to celebrate the day with us and express support for the initiative among Catholic communities in Latin America and the world.
We pray for you and your efforts to touch the hearts of people who can make big changes in our societies:
• Religious and spiritual world leaders to use their extraordinary moral and spiritual authority to clarify misinterpretations of sacred texts used to perpetuate violence against children or gender inequalities;
• Political and opinion leaders, to invest efforts and resources to build more equitable and just societies; prioritizing public policies and budgets on investing in childhood, and respecting the commitments made through the ratification of international human rights conventions.
We request from you, with your charisma and moral and spiritual authority, to enlighten parents and mothers on the need to use at any time, a positive and assertive discipline with their children, based on love and good treatment. Although eight countries in the region have banned corporal punishment by law, unfortunately the practice is still commonly accepted.
We ask you to be spokesman for a message of hope for all children and adolescents, to have faith in a world of peace and justice and become agents of change in their own environment.
We acknowledge gratefully your involvement in talks to restore diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. At the same time we call on religious communities to advocate for the definitive lifting of the embargo to this brother country and to look at Cuba as a model to the commitment to the rights of all children, which cannot disappear but only assert itself in the years to come.
Finally, we want to thank you immensely for your openness to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. We reiterate the importance of religion and spirituality joining forces in the search for spaces and strategies to fight poverty and eliminate the violence which affects too many children in our region. Beyond differences in creed, religious doctrines and practices, all religions and beliefs profess respect for human life and teach compassion, equality, justice and nonviolence as essential principles for social cohesion.
With humility, we ask you to continue your strong appeal to unity and interfaith cooperation, calling on religious communities in the region, especially the Catholic, to join our mission and efforts to make the desired kingdom of love, peace and justice a reality.
We pray that The Supreme Divinity enlightens your mission and be a witness of your commitment to children and adolescents, especially the poor and marginalized.
The Global Network of Religions for Children
Argentina – Brazil – Chile – Colombia –Cuba – Ecuador – El Salvador – Guatemala – Panamá – Dominican Republic