Religious leaders meet in Hiroshima to reaffirm their commitments to children
HIROSHIMA, Japan, 6 June 2008 – Over 1,300 religious leaders and UN officials from around the world recently participated in the Third Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) in Hiroshima, Japan. The forum focused on the role that religious and spiritual traditions can play in improving the lives of children.
The discussions centred on finding ways to end violence against children, ensuring that no child lives in poverty and empowering children to protect the planet. The forum included the active participation of 42 young people from various nations.
At the opening ceremony, UNICEF Spokesperson on Violence against Children Sarah Jones, a Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and poet, gave a vibrant performance that emphasised the importance of getting different faiths to unite for children.
Inspiring governments to take action
Speaking at the closing ceremony, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman stressed the crucial role that religious communities can play in helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Religious and spiritual groups can encourage their communities to mobilise and inspire governments to take action for children, she noted.
“With your extraordinary power of religious conviction and moral authority – you can help bring about real, positive change for children,” said Ms. Veneman. “As leaders within your societies, you are able to change mindsets and set priorities for your communities. As moral standard-bearers, and as the ones who are often the first to respond to problems in your communities, whether they are natural, social or economic crises, you have the trust and confidence of individuals and communities.”
Ms. Veneman also emphasised the important contributions that religious communities can make to overcome the negative perceptions that stand in the way of improving children’s lives.
Promoting common values
GRNC, with support from UNICEF and UNESCO, has issued 'Learning to Live Together: An Intercultural and Interfaith Program for Ethics Education'. The publication is a resource for teachers and peer educators who want to empower young people to respond to violence, poverty and environmental destruction. It stresses that through ethical awareness, and promotion of common values of respect, empathy, responsibility and reconciliation, progress will be made.
Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, President of the Arigatou Foundation, a non-governmental organisation based in Japan, which established GNRC, felt this forum could not have been held in a more appropriate location. He said it was a place where everyone can have an opportunity to reflect on the “true values of life.”
On 6 August 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb that killed as many as 140,000 people. More than 60 years later, the city has become a symbol of peace, with visitors trooping to 'ground zero' where the Hiroshima Peace Memorial is found.
The forum concluded with the adoption of the Hiroshima Declaration of the Global Network of Religions for Children. This declaration called for a World Day of Prayer and Action for Children to be held every year on 20 November. The world’s religious and spiritual leaders will join together to express their solidarity on these crucial issues and take action with and for children.