The African Council of Religious leaders —Religions for Peace(ACRL—RfP) in conjunction with the Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Dialogue Development and Action (EIFDDA) and GNRC Africa organized a forum in Axum Hotel, Addis Ababa on the 25Th of November, 2011 to mark the World Day of Prayer and Acton for children (DPAC). The day’s proceedings were guided by the theme, “Stop Violence Against Children” with prayers, presentations and discussions being the main activities of the day. Religious leaders from three different religions (Orthodox, Muslim and Bahi) were represented. Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) were the key participants during the forum.
EIFDDA’s Executive Director, Mr. Jihad Keno reiterated the joint effort with several Faith Based Organizations in the last six years that has seen over 50, 000 OVCs in different parts of the country receive support. He noted that Ethiopia has signed different conventions relating to children’s rights and emphasized that even with the great strides made so far, the need for support was far much greater considering the overall number of OVCs in the country.
Mr. Solomon Bekele, the key presenter of the day gave an elaborate talk on violence against children. Mr. Bekele reminded religious leaders that it was their responsibility to eliminate violence against children through teaching and creating awareness among their followers.
Sexual violence, abduction, maltreatment, neglect and negligent treatment, sexual exploitation of children (sexual prostitution), trafficking, and involvement of children in armed conflict were noted to be some of the common forms of Violence against children in Ethiopia.
The causes and effects of violence on children were clearly stipulated by the presenter. Signs that a child is experiencing violence were brought to the attention of participants.
Among the manifestations pointed out there:
Being very defensive
Direct confrontation with their families, teachers, etc.
Lack of trust
Turning to aggression
Poor school performance
Having night mares
Losing interest in doing things they liked before
Feeling alone, empty, sad, anxious or uncaring
Religious leaders were called upon to play an active role in combating violence against children.
Among the things that they could do:
• create awareness in the community about the impact of violence against children
• change norms, attitudes and practices
• Support, educate and train parents, teachers etc.
• protect and support children who are vulnerable to violence
• extend meaningful support to emotionally distressed street children and child prostitutes
The impact of the one day forum could be summed up with the expression of one participant, “What we consider as simple will have a great impact on the lives of children. The way we penalize them, how we treat them in the house or school, the way we express our love and the words we use when handling them should be of great consideration to us… Children highly need the love of their family”.
Participants during the forum