Child Development in a Wholesome Environment, First Forum
Development of the child begins from the time a child is conceived in a mother’s womb. Not only the nutritional and health condition of the mother directly influence the yet unborn child, but it is also influenced by the emotional, mental, and psychological condition of the mother and the other members of the family. The physical, mental, emotional, psychological and social development of the child continues through infancy, childhood and adolescence. If all these factors are positive then we can say that a child is developing in a wholesome environment.
Unfortunately, this ideal state for healthy child development is not found either in rich societies or in poor societies. There is a spiritual poverty which is shared by both the rich and the poor alike. The group considered that the intervention of religious groups should primarily begin by attacking the roots of spiritual poverty taking the human condition as a whole.
The promotion of materialistic culture by very aggressive marketing propaganda systems has deposited the idea that for a good and happy life what one needs is material wealth. Wealthy people in countries having achieved this objective of material affluence have found that there is emptiness instead of happiness in their life styles. Have-nots, or the poor, not having realized the futility of going for material satisfaction, find that they become poorer while the rich are becoming richer, and this leads to frustration and violence. It is at this point that religious communities have to intervene and bring about a spiritual renewal in human consciousness. Individuals and groups which are advancing personal and corporate greed should be educated and enlightened to realize that true happiness can come not through greed, hatred and competition, but through non-greed, love and cooperation. In such a situation of spiritual renewal, sharing of resources and constructively using them without bringing about a destruction of the psychological and physical environment, no society of poverty can be established. Instead of acquisition, sharing becomes a value that people will try to practice.
Across the wide spectrum of human society and human activity, beginning with individuals, families, communities and industrial and commercial organizations, a new culture of spirituality can be promoted with the intervention of religious bodies and spiritual leaders.
The children, who are the most afflicted sector of the human population, can be made to be participants of this transformation of human consciousness and institutions. Keeping this spiritual and participatory approach, the group decided to present the course of action and portfolio of activities below for the consideration of the Global Network of Religions for Children.
II. Working structure
The broad working structure that was followed in the two days of working of Study Group 4 was:
a) Introductory remarks on the aims and purpose of Study Group 4 by chairperson Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne
b) Presentation on the theme by Dr. Linda Milan, resource person of Study Group 4
c) Sharing of experiences in working for and with children by the study group participants
d) Open discussion on the role of religion and religious people to further the cause of children.
a) Introductory remarks by the chairperson, on the theme and the need to find common ground of shared commitment to work for children
b) Presentation of an interim report on the work of the group by co-chairperson Dr. Kezevino Aram
c) Open discussion on the status of children and factors in the environment which nurture or limit the development of children
d) Enumeration and presentation of potential programs that can be done as follow-up
III. Presentation by Resource Person Dr. Linda Milan
(1) To see the child in the framework of a life cycle, thus enabling the special requirements of children at different ages and the possibility of articulating appropriate interventions
(2) To recognize that the environment that influences a child/children includes the following levels — individual, family and society
(3) That responses to working for children must include elements of individual responsibility, strong community action and supportive policy
(4) That rights and responsibilities go together.
* Appendix 1: Slides of the presentation by Dr. Milan
IV. Participant presentations included those from India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Thailand, Korea, Belarus, South Africa, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Kenya, Jordan, and Israel.
V. Conceptual issues identified in working for children
- Reverence for life
- Gender inequality
- Poverty (spiritual and economic)
- Environmental degradation
- Inequity in health care
- Impact of science and technology
The motivation for program conceptualization and implementation was discussed in the framework of the following factors:
- Importance of religious community in working for child development in a wholesome environment
- Role of religious community in increasing the consciousness of the larger community about child development and the contents of such possible awareness programs
- Practical steps that religious communities can take and promote to foster a better environment for child development
- Potential ways in which religious communities can collaborate with local, governmental, and international organizations.
VII. Possible program areas that have potential for programmatic action
a) Advocacy on issues of children
b) Service provision
c) Awareness building and education
d) Behavior modification
e) Facilitation of hearing from children
f) Building partnerships
g) Environment modification
h) Information sharing
i) Resource mobilization
j) Revisiting religious communities on the status and issues of children
VIII. Some possible follow-up programs
(1) Sharing the info about proceedings, purpose and importance of GNRC in the various participatory countries
(2) To use the GNRC network for sustained sharing of experiences and positive examples on work with and for children
(3) The possibility of using art forms as a source of healing for children in a post-conflict situation (South Africa)
(4) The possibility of organizing World Play Day (Korea)
(5) The possibility of developing a South Asian Child development program, which will interface religion, child health, and development (Sri Lanka/India)
(6) To initiate a “World Week of Action for Children” (Belarus)
(7) To organize periodical meetings focussing on different issues related to children, e.g., “world after Chernobyl” (Belarus)
(8) To develop peace education programs for children (Japan)
(9) To collaborate with UN agencies like WHO, UNICEF in working for children (WHO West Pacific Office) especially in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
(10) To ensure the participation of children in all these programs at all stages of their formulation and implementation.
The essence of the deliberation was that a “poverty of spirit exists today,” that we as religious people have to re-visit and renew our stands and work for children and help conceptualize and implement innovative and creative ways of increasing social conscience, fostering partnerships and implementing positive programs to create a wholesome environment for child development.
Lastly, the group expressed its gratitude to the Arigatou Foundation for inaugurating the GNRC.