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Charities and faith groups urged to work together over child rights

29 November 2019

PA

A worker washes dishes at the Emmanuel New Hope Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. The orphanage, in Soweto slum, has adopted 43 children so far

A worker washes dishes at the Emmanuel New Hope Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. The orphanage, in Soweto slum, has adopted 43 children so far

FAITH communities and groups advocating for children’s rights need to work more closely together to prevent violence against children, a new study, Faith and Children’s Rights, has recommended.

Arigatou International, an NGO that works collaboratively to build a better world for children, launched its study on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child from the perspective of the world’s seven main religions. Planned to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the convention last week, it emphasises the importance of the part played by religious communities in advancing the rights and well-being of children.

Religious communities can have an “extraordinary influence”, particularly in hard-to-reach and marginalised communities, the study acknowledges.

While progress has been made in bringing together the work of children’s advocacy groups and faith communities, there is more still to be done.

The study highlights the impact of initiatives such as the work of religious scholars in Kenya to clarify religious teachings and present legal and medical facts to encourage communities to turn away from the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In Kenya, 94 per cent of the Somali community practise FGM, which they believe to be a religious requirement.

Despite the fact that Kenya is a signatory to the convention, which outlaws the practice, it has proved impossible to eradicate it. The work of religious scholars is beginning to have an impact, however, the study said.

The work of the organisation Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with the puppet and animation company No Strings International, to build resilience among child refugees displaced by the Syrian crisis was also singled out as helping children to rebuild trust and relationships.

The study is based on research from regional interfaith consultations in different parts of the world, as well as interfaith focus groups that gathered views and opinions from children and young people in seven countries.

Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, which collaborated on the study, called for faith groups to work more closely with charities and NGOs . . . and to put their “faith into action”.

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