We all remember the momentous GNRC 5th Forum held in Panama City, Panama in May 2017. The Forum was attended by close to 600 participants from 70 countries.
Since then, the GNRC Network has increased its membership by thousands. Before the Forum, GNRC was active in 41 countries. Two years after the Fifth Forum, GNRC became active in 55 countries. It is now a truly global interfaith movement for children. In the Panama Declaration on Ending Violence against Children, which was a key outcome of the 5th Forum, we all made 10 Commitments: 10 solid commitments:
- Listen to and involve children;
- Create safe spaces;
- Act on children’s proposals;
- Educate on violence;
- Leverage partnerships;
- Strengthening families;
- Challenge patriarchal structures that encourage violence against children;
- Contribute to SDGs;
- Strengthen Arigatou International cooperation and;
- Generate social will.
To achieve the Panama Commitments, GNRC formulated five broad areas based on the Fifth Forum discussions to guide its work: These are: Preventing Violent Extremism, Gang Violence and Organized Crime: Nurturing Spirituality in Child Up-bringing: Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children: Ending Child Poverty and Supporting Vulnerable Children: Building and Strengthening the Network
Cooperation between the GNRC, Arigatou International initiatives and global partners such as UNICEF, End Violence, Interfaith Alliance, KAICIID, Global Community Engagement Resilience Fund, Goldin Institute, World Vision, Islamic Relief, and many more, has grown stronger.
There has been significant increase in the connections and collaboration between members of the GNRC in the regions, and across the regions in sharing information, experiences, expertise, best practice and resources.
GNRC Regional meetings are now held regularly, and joint actions planned.
Flagship projects and programs have also been designed and implemented, while others scaled up with support from many GNRC members and partners.
For instance; in Latin America, the Alliance for the Protection of Children was initiated to protect children from violence, gangs and organized crime, through the collective work of more than 55 faith-based communities and organizations. An active working group on cybercare is now in place.
The India Poverty Solutions initiative is now a model for active engagement of children in addressing poverty. Some GNRC Networks in the region have borrowed this model.
In the Horn of Africa Intra- and an Inter-Faith approaches to address radicalization and violent extremism (such as Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism—BRAVE and the Community Resilience Against Violent Extremism—CRAVE) have been scaled up. We now have the Horn of Africa Working Group to address radicalization of children and young people.
The multi-religious study titled, “Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” and the Special Exposition on ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children are additional resources GNRC members benefited from. The International Consortium on Nurturing Values and Spirituality in Early Childhood has mobilized faith leaders and GNRC members to respond to challenges facing children.
In the three short years, since the 2017 Forum, the GNRC has reached and impacted over 6 million children and 13 million adults globally, both directly and indirectly. We look forward to strengthening and reinvigorating the GNRC Network, with increased capacity to mobilize more resources to support more programs and reach to more and impact more children.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful team of colleagues at the GNRC Secretariat. You have been the backbone of all the work that has produced all these extraordinary results we are celebrating today.
Deepest appreciation to the many GNRC Volunteer Coordinators, who continue to serve the children, every day of your life.
Special and deep thanks to the founding regional GNRC Coordinators—Fady Yarak; Prof. Dr. Rev. Qais Sadiq; Razia Ismail Abbasi; Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne; Mercedes Roman; Marta Palma; Dorit Shippin, Evi Guggenheim and the late Sr Jean Pruitt for your efforts to start us off on this fulfilling journey of serving children.
Finally, thank you Rev. Miyamoto for your commitment to Convene and Support this growing—now vast network, Inaugurated by your visionary father, the late Rev Takeyasu Miyamoto.
Mustafa Y. Ali, PhD
Secretary General, Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), and
Director, Arigatou International – Nairobi.