President of Arigatou Foundation
Leader of Myochikai
May 10, 2002
Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to all those who have given me this opportunity to speak to you today. It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to address the General Assembly on behalf of people from all the world’s great religions.
I would like to say a word about the role of people of faith – religious people – in our united efforts to build a world that is truly fit for children.
I speak today for the Global Network of Religions for Children, or GNRC, which was inaugurated two years ago by the Arigatou Foundation to promote cooperation among religious people working for the well-being of children.
Some 300 religious leaders and grassroots workers from every major world religion and 33 countries attended the First Forum of the GNRC in May 2000. The GNRC Statement we adopted began with the words of the poet, Rabindranath Tagore – “Every child born comes with a message that God has not yet despaired of humankind.”
Transcending the differences among our various religions, we affirmed in the Statement our common conviction that each child bears in her or his very being the hope and promise of the future of the Earth. We also acknowledged with remorse that religious people have often failed to put into practice the deepest insights of their own religious traditions into the dignity of the child. Finally, we offered concrete proposals for action by people of faith and others – cooperative action to build a better environment for children in the 21st century.
Mr. President – It is particularly important for those of us gathered here today to recognize that, just as the child has his or her being in the local contexts of the family, the community, and the nation – the being of the child also has a global dimension.
Locally, adults pass on values, traditions and culture to children; but in the global dimension, it is the child who sustains our hopes and keeps the potential for peace alive.
But the horrors that occurred here last September, and the events that have followed, would reject the precious future of the child – indeed, they have threatened the very foundation of human dignity.
This deterioration of the environment surrounding our children must be taken as a warning to all the Earth.
With grave and heartfelt concern, we – people from all the world’s great religions and so many of its nations – commit to you, in solidarity, that we shall pursue three vital courses of action:
One – we will establish a “Council on Global Ethics Education for Children” consisting of people of faith, educators and others. Its mandate will be to work in cooperation with the United Nations to make the development of spirituality in children – including ethical values, esteem for people of different religions and civilizations, and faith in the Divine – an essential part of the “quality education” pledged in the Special Session Outcome Document, “A World Fit for Children.” Our efforts will focus on the critically important primary school years.
Two – We will further strengthen our efforts to eradicate poverty, the root cause of the deteriorating environment that children face, giving attention not only to external causes but also to those that stem from the human heart, thus realizing fundamental solutions. Our plans for specific action will be formulated at the three-day GNRC Conference to be held immediately following this Special Session.
Three – As we join the worldwide effort to realize the goals of the outcome document, we will do our utmost to exercise our leadership and set an example among the people, seeking to generate a universal moral force that will propel implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – in both developed and developing countries – and mobilizing people from all walks of life to contribute to the Global Movement for Children.
Mr. President, as people of faith, we see the Divine Presence in every person, and thus it is our obligation to encourage each person, with patience and compassion, to realize the highest potential of the human heart. It is this Divine Presence – and this great potential – which are the eternal wellspring of the dignity of every child – indeed, of every one of us.
In closing, I would like to express once more, on behalf of the Global Network of Religions for Children, our most profound commitment – we shall devote ourselves to bringing about, through prayer and practice, this global, “silent spiritual revolution” for the future of children.
Thank you very much for your attention.