Iran’s National Body on the CRC brings together religious leaders and key stakeholders to renew focus on prevention of violence against children
27 November 2012, Tehran, Iran- Iran’s National Body on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (NBCRC)* brought together approximately 40 representatives of the country’s religious community and relevant government, non-government and civil society organizations in a half-day event entitled “The common perspective of religions on child rights, with focus on kindness and refraining from violence”. This event aimed to reiterate the importance of treating children with kindness and safeguarding them against violence, and to highlight the important role of religious leaders and institutions in promoting these values and initiating action within the society.
Participants of this event included members of the NBCRC’s Coordination Council, which has the representation of more than 16 key government and non-government organizations involved in the promotion of child rights and protection of children i.e. the President’s Office (Centre for Women and Family Affairs), the President’s Deputy for Strategic Planning and Control, Ministry of Justice, Prisons Organization, Law Enforcement Forces, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare, Tehran Municipality, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization, State Welfare Organization, Ministry of Sciences, Research and Technology, Ministry of Sports and Youth, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the Qom Seminary, and NGOs. In addition, religious leaders of the Muslim, Zoroastrian and Jewish faiths and members of the academia were present at the event.
The event opened with a speech by the Secretary of the NBCRC, Mr. Mozaffar Alvandi. Referring to Iran’s young population, Alvandi said, “Sometimes children are the victims of violence, and have to suffer grave consequences. Religious leaders have great capacities. We have a network of religious leaders in Iran and the NBCRC, as the national coordinating body for child rights-related issues, is committed to mobilizing these resources to combat violence against children.” Alvandi concluded by saying,” This symbolic event serves as a reminder to move forward on actions which have not yet taken place.”
Ms. Anna Riatti, Deputy Representative of the UNICEF Iran Office, emphasized the important role of religious leaders and communities in preventing violence against children, and UNICEF’s commitment, both globally and nationally, to support engagement with religious leaders for better protection of children. “Today’s event focuses on the theme of "Kindness towards Children" in line with prevention of violence against children”, said Ms. Riatti. “It is therefore a very good opportunity to highlight once again common areas of concern, challenges, and available national resources to combat VAC (particularly within the religious community), and strengthening cooperation in this regard.”
Rabbi Mashallah Golestani-nejad, religious leader of the Iranian Jewish community, referred to specific teachings of the Torah relating to children. “The Torah calls upon followers of the Jewish faith to empower children with knowledge”, he said. “ Teach your children. Speak with them.” He also explained that the Torah forbids violence against children. “Don’t be violent towards your children. Treat them with kindness”, he quoted. Rabbi Golestani-nejad concluded his speech by emphasizing the need for special attention to the education of children as a priority.”Hopefully this event will lead to concrete actions for children”, he said.
Magi Sohrab Hengaami, a religious leader of the Zoroastrian community of Iran, declared that the Zoroastrian faith deplores child abuse. He touched upon causes of this negative phenomenon within the society, including psychological problems, continuing prevalence of patriarchism in some communities,etc. “Religion is equivalent to conscience”, said Hengaami. “Therefore, a person with religion could never abuse another human being.” Finally, Maji Hengaami conveyed to the gathering his sincere hope for a world without violence.
Hojjat-ol-Islam Dr.Hashemi, an Islamic scholar and representative of the Qom Seminary in the NBCRC’s Coordination Council, elaborated extensively on Islam’s teachings on how to treat children. “ The issue is not only non-violence. It goes beyond that. It is about treating children with kindness and love. Children are the most deserving of love and respect.” Dr. Hashemi emphasized that Islam teaches the importance of kindness,love and mercy towards not only Muslims, but equally towards non-Muslims as well. Dr. Hashemi continued his speech by stating “The concepts relating to child rights are highlighted in Islam as well”. Dr. Hashemi also referred to the importance of preventing violence against children in conflict situations. “There are specific references to this issue in certain Islamic texts. International instruments have also elaborated on this matter.”
The closing speech of the day, given by Mr. Bakhtiari, Minister of Justice and Head of the NBCRC, reiterated the importance of the principles of key international instruments relating to children, namely “The Declaration of the Rights of the Child” and “The Convention on the Rights of the Child”. He referred in particular to the four core principles of the CRC i.e. non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. “We must go back to implementation of ratified instruments. The principles outlined in these intruments are reflected in the fundamental principles of Islam as well.”
Participants of the event also received a package which included a booklet entitled "Religious Leaders and Fighting Violence against Children, an Islamic Approach" ( a UNICEF-supported publication) and a brochure containing the Kyoto Declaration and the “Qom Declaration”, the latter issued by the religious leaders participating in Iran’s first national Inter-religious Conference on Violence against Children ( with focus on corporal punishment in family and educational settings), which took place in the holy city of Qom in October 2011.
In addition, as part of UNICEF's collaboration with government organizations for celebration of Children's Day in October 2012, Friday Prayer leaders in at least eight cities of Iran elaborated on the importance of treating children with kindness and the teachings of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in this regard during their sermons.
UNICEF Iran Office will continue, in 2013 and beyond, to foster its partnership with religious leaders and institutions for further promotion of child rights in Iran. An important resource book entitled "The Rights of the Child: A comparative study of Islam and international instruments" will be finalized and published in 2013.In addition, national and international advocacy and dialogue events will be organized as follow-up to the above-mentioned Inter-religious Conference on Violence against Children.
* The National Body on the CRC( NBCRC) was established in January 2012 under the Ministry of Justice, with a special mandate to monitor implementation of the CRC in Iran.