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Mobilizing religions in support of children

TEHRAN, 17 May 2006 – Two highly respected Iranian Shiite scholars who last week attended a global consultation on how to address violence against children in Spain, today supported a call for religious communities to do more to end violence against children.

Ayatollah Sayed Mousavi Bojnourdi, Head of Law at the Imam Khomeini Research Institute in Tehran and Naser Ghorbannia of Mofid University in Qom, who were attending a press conference at the UNICEF office in Tehran, both agreed that one of the key causes of violence against children is ignorance and that reason and religion must go together when dealing with children.

“All Muslims are duty bound to raise awareness, but for religious leaders, it is their job,” said Ayatollah Sayed Mousavi Bojnourdi. “They should talk about society’s problems at Friday prayers, and child abuse is a problem of today. We should highlight the role of religion regarding this issue. Religion does not accept any kind of violence against humans especially against children.”

Last week’s consultation in Toledo, Spain, was organised by UNICEF and the NGO, Religions for Peace. It brought together 60 religious representatives and experts from 15 different religions.

At the meeting the representatives agreed on three main outcomes:- Firstly there was an inter-religious ethical consensus that human dignity is sacred and therefore nobody has the right to violate it; secondly, a distinction needs to be made between violence and discipline, including a strong call to promote non-violent forms of discipline and lastly, representatives recognized that not enough attention has been paid by religious communities to address violence against children and mistakes have been and continue to be made. To address this, better monitoring mechanisms such as internal controls should be put in place.

“The presence of Iranian Shiite scholars in Toledo was instrumental in shaping the discussion and final recommendations on how religions should address violence against children”, said Christian Salazar Volkmann, UNICEF Representative in Iran, who also attended the meeting in Spain.

UNICEF’s child protection programme includes a project on preventing child abuse. It focuses on building and improving the skills of teachers, caregivers, parents and health and relief workers in the detection of abuse.

Several recent studies have documented a nationwide prevalence of abuse of children. In one such survey, 20.5% of 6-11 year olds and 8.7% of 12-18 year olds had been physically punished by their caregivers in the week before the survey was undertaken.

Recommendations from the consultation will be submitted to the UN Study on Violence Against Children for inclusion in the final report that will be sent to the UN General Assembly at the end of 2006.



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