A CONGRESS of faith leaders met in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last month to launch an interfaith group dedicated to protecting children from online exploitation.
The Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities will work to bring together believers from all religions, through workshops and conferences, to tackle various social issues, beginning with child abuse on the internet.
The project hopes to build on a conference convened last year in Rome by the Vatican on “Child Dignity in the Digital World”. After this, Pope Francis endorsed a communiqué — the Declaration of Rome — and said that “a society can be judged by the way it treats its children.”
Among the faith leaders present at the launch, in Abu Dhabi, was the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; the leading religious authority in Sunni Islam, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb; and the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II; as well as prominent Buddhist and Sikh figures.
The Alliance is the initiative of the government of the UAE. The Minister of the Interior, Brigadier General Mohammed Humaid bin Dalmuj Al Dhaheri, said: “Together we stand in solidarity, along with leaders of faith, distinguished academic experts, and industry leaders, to protect every child’s right to dignity and safety online.
“The Interfaith Alliance is a way to reach, inform, and involve people of all faiths to accelerate action both globally and at grass-root levels.”
Because of the prominent social position occupied by clergy, imams, priests, and other religious leaders in most countries around the world, they must play a critical part in combating child abuse, the conference organisers said.
The Revd Bishoy Salib, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said: “With the advent of digital communication, over 800 million children and adolescents are exposed to criminal behaviour online. Abuse and exploitation of children online is not merely a risk, it’s a reality, taking place at an unprecedented scale. Urgent action must be taken.”