The Hiroshima Declaration of the Global Network of Religions for Children
26 May 2008, GNRC Third Forum
“I am afraid of a childless world.”
– From a Persian poem
We, religious leaders, people of different faiths, activists, professionals, educators, youth and children from 63 countries, gathered from 24 to 26 May 2008 at the Third Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC). At the invitation of the Arigatou Foundation, we met in Hiroshima, a city that rose out of the ashes to become a city dedicated to world peace. We thought it particularly fitting that representatives of the United Nations joined us in this place for this Forum.
Our purpose was to: reflect on our origins and accomplishments, renew our commitment to the world’s children, strengthen and expand our network to better meet the needs of children, and promote our shared values to instill hope for peace on earth and empower children to realize their potential for participation and leadership.
In doing so, we affirmed the mission of the GNRC: to offer a faith-based contribution to the realization of every child’s right to attain physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development as recognized in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Acknowledging the wounds of history and healing painful memories must be a goal at every interreligious gathering. In encountering one another and sharing our stories, we began to build bridges. Together, in our common desire to improve the conditions of children around the world, we discovered new bonds of trust and new potential for joint action.
Three ethical imperatives guided our deliberations:
- To end violence against children
Therefore, we pledge to prevent violence against children in our families, in our learning institutions, in our communities, and in our nations. In a world of plurality, we call on all religious and spiritual communities to recognize that no religion is an island. We must work together to overcome the root causes of violence, especially wherever religious traditions are used to justify it. Our religious education must champion non-violence and enable children to accept and respect others, fostering harmonious co-existence among all peoples.
- To ensure that no child lives in poverty
Therefore, we pledge to go beyond conventional economic approaches to addressing poverty, realizing that development does not automatically alleviate poverty. In a complex world of vast injustice and the growing challenges of globalization, our economies must be reconsidered and reconstructed on the basis of ethics and good governance: we call for a dialogue of conscience to increase empathy, promote just structures, and make governments responsible to their people. We affirm that children and youth have the potential to transform their communities and the world.
- To protect the earth
Therefore, we pledge to respond to nature’s cries with urgent action, recognizing that we are borrowing from future generations. No one is exempt from the duty to respect the earth. We believe that the earth can regenerate and restore itself, if we change our behavior and habits. We call on all people of faith to better appreciate who we are and our role within the universe, drawing from our religious traditions-their stories and values-to practice trusteeship in a sustainable “earth community.”
We recognize that innovative tools are critically needed to address these complex challenges in our world today. In response, over the past four years, we have developed, tested and launched an intercultural and interfaith programme for ethics education titled Learning to Live Together. By nurturing ethical awareness and promoting the common values of respect, empathy, responsibility and reconciliation, we believe this program will empower young people to respond to the threats of violence, poverty and environmental destruction.
Cognizant of the priorities for action in the regional groups developed here, we urge all of our GNRC regional networks, other faith-based organizations and NGO partners, the media, and educational institutions to work together to implement Learning to Live Together around the world. We appreciate the presence with us here in Hiroshima of representatives from UNESCO and UNICEF, as well as their commitment to further this work.
As people of different faiths and religious traditions, we propose that a “World Day of Prayer and Action for Children” be held every year on 20 November, the International Children’s Day. We therefore call on people of all of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions to join us as we express our gratefulness for children and rededicate ourselves to children on this day each year, and together with relevant government, non-governmental and community-based organizations and other stakeholders, take action with and for children.
The call to pray, meditate, worship, and contemplate is at the heart and soul of all religious and spiritual traditions. There is a hope and vision reflected in prayer that people of every faith embrace and share. The call for prayer for children brings together our shared anguish at the suffering of children, and offers our collective hope for their dignity and integrity. And we recognize that with every prayer comes a new commitment to action.
Honoring the spirit of the Arigatou Foundation, we recommit ourselves to “prayer and practice” to implement these pledges as we go forth from the Third Forum in Hiroshima.
*The recommendations from three thematic groups and action plans from seven regions are an integral part of this declaration.