Present Conditions of Children’s Rights and what is expected of the religious people, opening


Your excellencies, the organizers of this conference, United Nations representatives, members of the religious community, NGO representatives, ladies and gentlemen, and all other protocols observed.  It gives me great pleasure to be here today to share with you my humble thoughts on the “Present Conditions of Children’s Rights and what is expected of the religious people.”  

Indeed the twenty first century was welcomed with call to all leaders of the world to take note of the world’s children who were still languishing in poverty, hunger, disease, violence, natural and human made disasters.  Ten years after the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) came into force, the statement made by the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan was in some ways alarming yet at the same time true, when he claimed that the world leaders had failed children by either omission or commission.  The decade for children had seen un-precedent growth of poverty, senseless violence in home, inter state or in – state, wide spread of preventable diseases and continuous forms of gender, racial, ethnic, economic and social cultural discrimination and violence.  He said, and I quote:

              “There is no trust more scared than the one the world holds for children,

              There is no duty more important than ensuring that their welfare is Protected,

              That their lives are free from fear, discrimination and

              That they grow up in peace.”

Indeed it is against this call, that the organizers of this conference have brought us all together to renew our commitment to the children of the world.  The success for a new leadership agenda will depend on personal commitment by each and every one of us to ensure the basic rights of a child in our home, neighbourhood, village and country are provided and protected.

Religious leaders have the ability to reach each and every one of us, because religion is “being”. And being is the ultimate goal of every one of us.

Religious leaders are closer to the people than political leaders who hide behind tight security in the name of protection.  In own village, the most visible development agency is a church or mosque.  The religious institutions have provided development resources, health facilities and schools for the poor regardless of faith.

I was educated in a school supported by the Swedish Lutheran Mission.  Today the projects for street children, child prostitutes, child workers, rehabilitation of child soldiers, relief in the war stricken parts of Africa, Asia, South America are by religious organizations.

Your vision to form a network for religious people for children is long overdue, as it comes at the end of the first decade since the UN CRC came into force, but at the right time because it is the beginning of a new century and hope for a better world for all children.  It is also the International Year for Peace in the world and most significant, this is the Tenth Anniversary of the Arigatou Foundation.

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, allow me a minute to reflect on the historical involvement of the civil society in the fight for human rights of children, to enable us draw some parallels on what religious people can do for children.

In 1979, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights set up a Working Group to review the proposal for a Convention on the Rights of the Child and to produce a draft text.  From this earliest stage some attempt was made to foster civil society cooperation.  The early experiences were frustrating, as few had experience of working with the UN, and their agenda as the civil society was dis-jointed.

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