“The instinct to care for children comes from deep within the teachings and spiritual vision of all religious traditions, which motivates people of faith to make the commitment to take practical actions for children. Fulfilling these commitments requires the collaborations of religious communities with each other, and with other partners, because these challenges cut across all religions and are too great for any one group to handle alone.” (World Conference on Religion and Peace)
Religious actors have deep and trusted relationships with their communities and strong linkages with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members. As such, they are particularly well placed to address inequity related to societal factors – such as social norms, behaviours and practices that affect access to services or fuel discrimination and deprivation – and thus facilitate efforts towards the realization of the rights of the most disenfranchised.
"It is a moral obligation for us to provide an environment that enables children to fully explore their innate potential with human dignity, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the major vehicle to accomplish this essential task." (Global Network of Religions for Children)
The Convention on the Rights of the Child expresses a holistic vision of the child that is informed by and reflects values shared with the world’s major religious traditions, such as:
Religious communities have developed structures and defined relationships shaped by these values, and their mandates and belief systems encourage efforts to speak out on behalf of and assist the disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable. Their traditions of intergenerational sharing of knowledge and faith help to sustain and perpetuate these systems.
Moral influence and leadership
Due to their moral influence, religious leaders can influence thinking, foster dialogue and set priorities for members of their communities. For example, 74 per cent of people in Africa identify religious leaders as the group they trust most.
With religious communities counting almost 5 billion members, their potential for action is great. From the smallest village to the largest city, and from districts and provinces to national and international levels, they offer a variety of networks for the care and protection of children and the safeguarding of their rights. The following are some examples of the reach of religious and inter-religious actors:
In spite of the positive role religious communities can play, it is important to acknowledge from the outset that there are often concerns about partnering with religious communities, as very real problems and challenges exist. There are times and places in which such partnerships may not be beneficial. There may be religious actors whose approaches and practices are not in keeping with child rights principles.