Bullying and how it affects children’s lives- main theme of the World Day for Prayer and Action for Children 2011 celebration in Portugal

On 20th November, 2011, 1,700 people participated in DPAC celebrations in 9 cities in Portugal: Braga, Porto, Aveiro, Coimbra, Santarém, Lisboa, Setúbal, Açores and Madeira. 120 children were involved in leading the activities. That day, many churches were full of children, parents and community members. They all followed a common guideline prepared by the Organizing Committee, but adapted by each city to its own reality. The main theme was “Stop Violence against Children,” with specific focus on bullying and how it affects children’s lives.

The celebrations were organized by the Apostolic Youth Movement, MAAC, and the Baha’i Community in Portugal. As part of the preparation process, candles with the DPAC logo were prepared and distributed among hundreds of people; both adults and children.

Main activities developed included information about DPAC, reading of a text about violence against children using UNICEF data and other readings about violence against children; lighting the DPAC Candles; singing a song; reading a poem and preparing Graffiti about DPAC with messages of peace and encouragement from children to other children.

This was a simple but very emotional and symbolic moment where all participants, community members and parents, could hear children’s voices expressing their fears and wishes for the future. Some DPAC candles will remain on the altar in churches until Christmas.

Some of the main outcomes have been the following:

 – The Priests, community members and especially parents are now much more aware of children’s reality, not just about their own children, but all children around the world.
 – Children are much more aware about what is happening to other children around them and around the world.
 – There is a clear interest to continue celebrating the DPAC each year.

Some of the comments/feelings from the participants about the Celebration:

 – “I was surprised and touched by the poem read during the ceremony. It made me think that I must be more aware and hear my son more carefully.”- a parent
 – “I realized certain things that have never crossed my mind.”- a parent
 – Some religious leaders have already said that they want to keep celebrating this day each year.
 – Some people said what the children had done touched them deeply.

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