Timor-Leste celebrates World Day of Prayer and Action for Children
Dili, Timor-Leste, 20 November 2011 - Timor-Leste celebrated the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC) and the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with a series of activities that focused on the theme of “Stop Violence Against Children”. The celebration was participated in by the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, representatives of the religious communities, members of Government and Parliament as well as more than 500 children and youth.
Following the mass, the children, together Vice President Maria Paxiao of the National Parliament, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Timor-Leste Finn Rieske-Nielsen, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Timor-Leste Riitta Poutianen, and the Bishop of Dili, gathered in front of the cathedral and released colourful balloons with prayers to stop violence against children.
The second part of the event consisted of dramas, songs and dances performed by children of different religious affiliation. One drama featured positive disciplining based on the findings of “Speak Nicely to Me”, a joint 2006 study by UNICEF and Plan International, which explored practices and attitudes about disciplining of children in Timor-Leste. This study indicated that many Timorese children had experienced violent forms of discipline including being beaten, slapped and verbally abused by parents and teachers. The drama was on how a teacher and a student convinced a father to explain patiently and to lead by example as a means of disciplining his children, instead of hitting or through verbal abuse. The drama, with young performers from Criancas Unidas, was engaging and captured the attention of the children and adults in the audience.
During the programme, guests including President Ramos-Horta and the Vice President of the National Parliament Maria Paxiao declared their commitment to continue investing in the development of a protective environment for all children in Timor-Leste.
In her remarks, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF Timor-Leste first conveyed her appreciation to the National Commission on the Rights of the Child and the participating religious communities, including those representing the Catholic Church, Protestant Churches and Muslim community, and partners for their cooperation with UNICEF in celebrating the Day of Prayer and Action for Children. She acknowledged the critical role religious communities play in reaching out to marginalized populations, including children. She concluded by stressing the importance of taking the momentum in strengthening everybody’s commitment to stop all forms of violence against children by moving in concerted action.
DPAC is a global initiative to engage religious communities to work together with national and international organizations for the welfare of children. Its theme for 2011-2013 is Violence against Children. In concert with this initiative, UNICEF Timor-Leste worked with many partners to help focus on positive disciplining, improving birth registration and prevention of gender-based violence.
Before the actual 20 November DPAC event, both the President and the Bishop of the Diocese of Dili, called for action to protect children from all forms of violence, by taping their respective messages which were aired on national television.
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