Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Kabul
by Aziz Froutan
Kabul, 26 November 2010 – More than a thousand worshippers gathered last week in Wazir Akbar Khan mosque in Kabul, one of the most well-known mosques in Afghanistan, to hear their imam preach about children’s rights and the importance of education for both boys and girls. In and around Kabul, more than 250 other mosques also promoted the rights of the child, in an initiative sponsored by UNICEF and the Ministry of Religious Affairs to mark the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
“A child has the right to education and health and to be treated with kindness and compassion,” said Mohammad Ayaz Neyazi, the Imam of Wazir Akbar Khan mosque. “According to the Holy Quran, the most important gift for a child is education irrespective of gender.”
“Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar...,” proclaimed the worshippers in approbation of the mullah’s sermon, unusual in Afghanistan in being entirely dedicated to child rights.
The sermon centred on three key messages: According to Islam, a child has the right to live in his/her family, and when a child loses his/her parents, the orphan has the right to be treated with dignity, kindness and mercy by the enlarged family and by the community. Islam entrust parents or caregivers with the responsibility to preserve the life and health of their child and to provide care as he or she grows. Education is considered an obligation for every child in Islam, and children should be spared violence or physical or psychological harm while in school.
“If children enjoy their rights, they will become the good elements of society and parents will be proud of their children,” said Imam Ayes Neyazi.
As worshippers returned home after the Friday prayer, discussions about child rights were rife. The message was clearly understood. As one worshipper, Ahmad Anwari, stressed with passion:“Islam urges us to protect the children, and as our religious leaders said we have to educate our children to ensure their future.”
The involvement of Afghanistan’s religious community in promoting child rights follows UNICEF’s call for a comprehensive Child Act to encompass the full array of children’s rights, backed by the necessary resources for implementation, as well as means to monitor and provide appropriate forms of redress. Such an Act would supersede all preceding legislation not in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and would accord to the Convention a legal status that could be directly invoked within the legal system. Once in place, the successful implementation of a Child Act will require the fullest possible ownership and commitment from the senior-most levels of the Government of Afghanistan, but also from civil society and religious leaders.
In Afghanistan today, one in five children die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from easily preventable causes like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Five million children are still out of school – over three million of whom are girls – and only six percent of children are registered at birth, leaving the great majority without a legal identity, protection and care under the law.