The Role of Religious People in the Global Movement for Children

Throughout history, religious people have served humanity as they fulfilled their significant mission as a bridge connecting the Holy with the people. As seen for example in the prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the recipients of divine revelation have paid heed also to the voices of the people, reaching out to the most disadvantaged in keeping with the sacred commission they received. Historically, it is clear that religious people have often been able to mobilize the people, as well as the community authorities.
More recently, in the latter half of the 20th century, the world religions entered an age of dialogue and cooperation. Sparked in the beginning by the ecumenical movement in Christianity, the major religions sought mutual understanding and benefited from fruitful interaction, leading to joint efforts to establish lasting peace in the world.

In today’s increasingly diverse and complex societies, religious people of all faiths are often expected to play a new mediating role–bridging the gap between leaders of various kinds and people at the grassroots level. Since religious people, in the exercise of their spirituality, often stand with the people in a way that leaders cannot, they possess a unique capacity to understand the needs of the people and transmit their requests to leaders. They are also thus able to convey the leadership’s intentions and policies downward in an effective way. And the moral authority religious people have always offered as they represent the Holy is a needed element in bringing both leaders and the people together for concerted action.

The advance of globalization will only further increase the potential for religious people of various faiths to take collective action on a global scale. As worldwide religious cooperation grows, it will augment the intrinsic gift and mission of the religious community to serve as go-between. All the while inspired by the Holy, religious people can communicate the agenda of the international community to grassroots people around the globe, and provide feedback on their reaction, not only to leaders of national governments, but also to the upper echelons of the United Nations and other international organizations.

Religious people also hold a special position of influence in the determination of social values. The diversity of value systems in the world, though beautiful, can often pose obstacles to the thorough implementation of the commitments of the international community. In this sense, religious people can do more than simply transmit the agenda of leadership; they can help to infuse social value systems around the world with positive elements, such as respect for the rights of the child.

A decade has passed since the World Summit for Children, and a new global movement for children in the 21st century is about to be launched at the Special Session on Children of the UN General Assembly in September 2001.

In generating this new movement, the greatest challenge will not be engaging the established leaders of the international community, the Heads of State and leaders of international organizations. Rather, it will be securing the involvement of all the people–in every sector, at every level–businesspeople, academics, people at NGOs, and ordinary individuals everywhere.

Religious people stand prepared to carry the international community’s new vision and commitment for children to the grassroots level, delivering it also, importantly, to the children themselves. They are ready to take concrete action in order to achieve the full realization of the goals of the global movement for children, working side by side with people from all walks of life.

The Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) was established in May 2000 among religious people engaged in grassroots activities for children–people who were motivated by deep concern over the present situation of the world’s children and a keen awareness of their mission and responsibility as religious people. Holding these things in common, individuals and organizations from around the world have come together in the GNRC for the express purpose of taking strong new initiatives. There could be few callings more worth our every effort than to serve as a core resource and central actor in the development of the global movement for children.

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