Myanmar religious leaders vow unity for child rights, call for tolerance and respect of religious and ethnic diversity
Yangon, 4 April 2014 - In an unprecedented joint initiative undertaken through the partnership of Ratana Metta Organization (RMO) and UNICEF, leaders of four main religions in Myanmar met in Yangon to express their unequivocal commitment to the realization of child rights and the building of a tolerant society respectful of religious and ethnic diversity.
The conference is the first time in Myanmar’s history that religious leaders from different faiths have come together to maximize the use of spiritual, moral and social assets of religious communities in support of child protection, survival and education.
Through a joint Declaration, the religious leaders of the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities attending the National Conference on Faith for Children have re-affirmed that every child is entitled to a safe, protected childhood, during which every child can grow and develop to her or his optimal potential, has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and more generally to enjoy his or her rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The four religions support the core principles of the CRC, namely the best interests of the child, the rights to life, survival, development and participation, the principle of non-discrimination of any kind, and the universality of rights.
In the current situation in Myanmar, setting up an inter-religious platform is critical to promote interfaith dialogue and address children’s issues. The newly adopted joint Myanmar Interfaith Declaration will pave the way for joint actions for children’s development and protection in Myanmar.
“We, the world religious leaders believe that all religions in the world by their respective means enable to mitigate the violence of human mind and make it polite and tame. The role of religious leaders will be uplifted as the people will regard them as those who best serve for the welfare of the people and the promotion of world peace and stability. This is my earnest appeal and request to the world religious leaders,” said Venerable Dr. Ashin Nynnissara (Sitagu Sayadaw), Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academies.
Globally, UNICEF has a long history of working with religious leaders of all faiths on issues that affect children: from joining forces with churches to negotiate a ceasefire during the civil war in El Salvador so that children could be vaccinated to working with Imams to promote girls’ education and partnering with Buddhist monks in Cambodia to support children affected by HIV and AIDS.
“We are happy to partner with UNICEF in Myanmar. Children are symbolized as jewels in the Holy Quran and parents are strictly instructed to nurture them in the best way,” said Senior Muslim Leader Al-Haj Mufti U Ko Lay, patron of Religions for Peace Myanmar.
The Faith for Children conference was convened at an opportune time to share best practices which could be scaled up such as those arising from the Faith for Children initiative undertaken by RMO with the support of UNICEF. Based on social and spiritual values, the partnership seeks to empower faith leaders to mainstream child survival, development and protection issues and solutions into religious dialogues and gatherings. Relevant teachings from Buddhism have been compiled in a Faith for Communication booklet which more than 3,000 monasteries from 880 villages/wards have started to disseminate to promote key family and community practices.
“Children and families are seeking moral and spiritual guidance during the country’s transition, and too many communities have been torn apart by inter-communal and inter-religious violence. Religious leaders have a crucial role to play to promote peace and child rights,” said UNICEF’s Representative to Myanmar Bertrand Bainvel.
More than 100 representatives from all faiths plus international scholars and experts joined the conference, including Ms. Liza Barrie Chief, Civil Society Partnerships Programme UNICEF New York, Ven. Datuk Kirinde Dhammaratana Thero, Buddhist Maha Vihara from Malaysia, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General from Religions for Peace and Mr. Ekraj Sabur, Director of International Institute of Peace Studies from Thailand.
UNICEF in Myanmar
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