CCC to attend UNICEF conference in Spain
On the invitation of Mr. Nils Kastberg, Regional Director of the United Nations Childrens' Fund (UNICEF) Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, the General Secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC), Mr. Gerard Granado, will attend a global consultation on "Mobilizing Religions to Address Violence against Children" which will take place from May 9-11 2006 in Toledo , Spain.
The meeting is being co-sponsored by the World Conference of Religions for Peace and UNICEF. It will bring together 50 religious representatives and experts to discuss issues of violence and child protection.
This global consultation will seek to ensure that the study process involves the voice and commitment of the world's religious communities. It will have three specific objectives, including: submission of a final set of recommendations to the Violence Study Secretariat for inclusion in the report that will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in October 2006; development of key messages and action commitments for religious communities to address violence against children which will form the basis for a set of programme materials to be disseminated through religious communities to assist them in developing programmes and mounting advocacy campaigns and preparation of a draft declaration for religious leaders on violence against children that will be formally adopted at the Religions for Peace World Assembly in Kyoto, Japan in August 2006.
This invitation serves as a reminder of the CCC and UNICEF's commitment to work together to ensure the rights and protection of children in the Caribbean region which was solidified in November 2005 with the signing of an Exchange of Letters. This was with regard to the respect, protection and fulfillment of the Rights of Children in Central America and the Caribbean.
On that occasion, both Mr. Kastberg and Mr. Granado acknowledged the important role of Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) in making sure that children grow up in a caring and protective environment. For the CCC, this collaboration with UNICEF is faithful in answer to its mandate which, according to Mr. Granado, "sends us to the most vulnerable, and children definitely fall within the category of vulnerable."
As a precursor to the May global consultation, in 2002, the Committee on the Rights of the Child requested that the United Nations' Secretary General lead a global study on violence against children. This, in order to better understand the scale of the phenomenon and the complexity of the problems, while identifying lasting solutions that will create a protective environment for children.
Following this, the group Religions for Peace convened a gathering of senior religious leaders in Helsinki , Finland in September 2005 for an initial consultation on the United Nations Study on Violence against Children. Its purpose was to develop recommendations to submit to the Study Secretariat, and to advance the strategy for engaging religious communities in this process through follow up activities.
Out of the Helsinki consultation, a report, together with recommendations were set out for the Spain meeting to advance. A point that stood out in the Helsinki report, acknowledged that participants stressed the importance of a holistic approach that did not oversimplify the problems of violence.
In relation to the study itself, the religious leaders raised the issue that while children are victims of violence, older children/adolescents are often the perpetrators of violence and portrayed in many societies as a threat, and this reality needs to be addressed in a serious way.
The key recommendations developed from that first consultation included: mobilization of leadership in religious communities for education and advocacy on violence against children by training local clergy, women's groups, youth groups, and children's associations; review of sacred texts/teachings in each religious tradition to develop messages that promote non-violence approaches to child rearing and discipline; development of materials for skills training at all social levels both to prevent violence and to care for those who have been victims - materials should be holistic in cultivating an attitude of non-violence at the individual, community, and societal levels; utilization of inter-generational character of religious communities to support participation of children and open dialogue and discussion among children and adults on issues of violence; and encouragement of religious leaders to join solidarity networks to advocate on behalf of children.
This UNICEF meeting in Spain will therefore allow the CCC further dialogue and contribution in an international forum. Through the General Secretary, CCC's participation will therefore ensure effective religious and geographic representation as it is the recognized Regional Ecumenical Organization (REO) of the Caribbean , and one of the major development agencies at work in the Caribbean today.
The next step after the Spain consultation will be the Religions for Peace World Assembly. There will be over 800 senior religious leaders from around the world at this meeting who will pledge their commitment to address violence against children. The CCC's General Secretary is scheduled to attend this assembly as it continues to be a part of advancing the process in protecting the children and adolescents of the Caribbean region.
As Mr. Granado notes: "The plight of our youth will worsen and go unheard if we, who are leaders in society, do not join together to protect, nurture and love those who are most vulnerable and protect them from the many ills around us which threaten their holistic development and well-being."