KAICIID discusses the role of religious leaders and institutions in protecting children’s rights

05 Aug 2019

KAICIID discusses the role of religious leaders and institutions in protecting children’s rights

The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) convened religious leaders and institutions at a consultative meeting this week in Beirut, Lebanon, to discuss the important role that religion plays in protecting the rights of children around the world.

Hosted on 1-2 August, the meeting brought together 40 participants from over 25 religious institutions and educational institutions in the Arab world. The Centre co-organized the event with the KAICIID-supported Interreligious Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation in the Arab World and Arigatou International.

Held under the umbrella of the Multi-Religious Study on the Contributions of Religious Communities to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the consultative process gathers recommendations from religious leaders and institutions on best practices for engaging religion in the protection of the rights of the child. It also ensures that the study accurately reflects the deeply-held values embedded within religious traditions that uphold the inherent dignity of every child.

Speaking to participants, Monsignor Ivan Santos, Chargé d'Affaires of the Pontifical Embassy, recognised the shared commitment of religious leaders around the world to advocate these values, particularly through the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. The joint statement was signed earlier this year in the United Arab Emirates by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. Working within ourselves and with others for fraternity means celebrating the life and dignity of each person, he said.  

Stefan Veit, Chargé d'Affaires of the Austrian Embassy Beirut added that these partnerships are important not just between religious communities, but also between policymakers. Veit stated that it is important for Austria to take part in such consultations to support children’s rights, adding that KAICIID plays a key role in facilitating such encounters and is considered a leading organization in the field of dialogue around the world. He additionally praised the collaborative efforts between Arigatou International and the Centre, to turn the recommendations gathered during the consultations into an action plan.

KAICIID Senior Advisor Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer hopes these positive partnerships, as well as the resulting action plan and study, will address many of the key challenges facing communities around the world.

“The main challenge we face today is figuring out the most effective role that religious leaders and institutions can play in contributing to the implementation of policies and practices that support the protection of children’s rights.” Professor Abu-Nimer said. “There is no doubt that religious institutions are major players in protecting children’s dignity and safety, but the importance lies in engaging these religious leaders and institutions with policymakers to make sure that the message comes across clearly.”

He adds that “religion itself is not the reason for compromising children’s rights, but the issue, rather, lies in certain practices, manipulations, and misinterpretations of religious texts."

KAICIID Board Member Dr. Mohammad Sammak adds that because religious extremism has sought to destroy the value of mercy in religion, as well as separate religion from spirituality, the task of those gathered at the meeting is all the more urgent.

“What remains of religion and faith, if they’ve been stripped of spirituality and mercy?” he asked. “This is where the role of religious scholars comes in, to restore core religious values, like love, mercy, freedom, and the protection of human dignity, including the dignity and rights of children.”

A sample of the Study on the Contributions of Religious Communities to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was presented at the consultative meeting by Rebeca Rios-Kohn, Director of Arigatou International. Conducted in consultation with religious leaders from seven different religions, along with legal experts, representatives of religious institutions, and experts on children’s rights and well-being, the study will be officially launched on 20 November at the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.