Faith leaders and youth advocates joined by child-rights activists from 15 countries issued a call in Colombo, Sri Lanka to end violence against children in the Asia Pacific during the 16 October launch of a global campaign by the international aid agency, World Vision: “It takes a world to end violence against children.”
Close to 150 participants joined from multiple global faith networks, regional bodies, governments, NGOs and youth leaders.
Dr. Rinchen Chophel, Director General of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, challenged child-rights activists and agencies to unite. “The time of working in isolation in compartments is over,” announced the medical doctor trained in international humanitarian law. “This campaign may have a big approach, but it needs to be meaningful to small constituents.”
Chief Guest Chandrani Senarathne, Secretary of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, “Violence against children includes all forms of physical, sexual and mental violence. We know the goal to end violence against children may sound too ambitious, after all we are not only aiming at reducing violence, but actually saying ENDING Violence against children ! And, we believe it can be done in this generation”
Youths nominated to attend from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Myanmar shared their experiences living through and advocating against violence, encouraging leaders to do more.
“I feel so sad that there are many girls or children like me who are victims of child marriage and other forms of violence. It took me a lot of courage to speak up. If I had not spoken to my teacher, I wouldn’t be here today. That’s why I encourage youths to share their views and feelings,” said Meghla Akter from Bangladesh.
Faith network panellists included: Brahmachari Darshan Chaitanya from the Hindu organization,
Chinmaya Mission; Ven. Galkande Dhammananda from the Buddhist Walpola Rahula Institute based in Colombo; Atallah Fitz Gibbon from the UK-headquarted humanitarian organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and; Moses Akash De Silva, an orphan-turned-pastor with the Sri Lankan non-profit, Voice for Voiceless Foundation.
Facilitator and reverend, Christo Greyling, World Vision’s Director of Faith Partnerships for Development, opened the panel by striking a note of honesty. “I can only speak for Christianity, but we have to be honest that sometimes faith leaders are part of the problem [of perpetuating violence against children],” he told the audience. “For any child who has been hurt by a faith leader, I apologize to you.”
“Children may have a biological father and mother, but they belong to all of humanity,” added Brahmachari Darshan Chaitanya from Chinmaya Mission. “Religious leaders play a great role in changing the thinking and behaviours to end violence against children. We are all responsible for their well being.”
Daniel Selvanayagam, World Vision’s Senior Director of Operations for East Asia, cited research from the US-headquartered Pew Centre of how more than four out of 10 countries have an official state or preferred religion, and more than eight out of 10 individuals globally identify with a faith. “Whatever the news headlines may have you believe, we are a people and polity driven by faith, not violence,” he said.
The event concluded with all participants signing a personal pledge that concluded, “It takes a world to end violence against children and I want to be a part of that.”
World Vision is rolling out the “It takes a world to end violence against children” campaign with partners across 17 Asian countries with a focus on ending child marriage, sexual abuse, child trafficking, child labour, physical violence in schools and the home, and corporal punishment. Participating countries include: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Mongolia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.