REPORT: Sixth Day of Prayer & Action on Universal Children’s Day Celebrated
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children continued to expand its influence, celebrating the sixth Day of Prayer on Universal Children’s Day on November 20, 2013.
World Day was the catalyst for 95 events held in 51 countries through the month of November, bringing together secular and faith-based organizations to work to end violence against children.
The Tokyo-based Arigatou International, together with the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), created the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in 2008 to be a day of reflection and a call to action for the well being of children around the world.
In India, the Week for Holistic Welfare of Children was celebrated November 14-20 in 19 districts of West Bengal, with rallies and workshops presented by Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University and the Organization for Friends, Energies and Resources (OFFER). The Ramakrishna Mission and OFFER stressed the need for positive parenting and taught parents how to protect their children from trafficking.
In the United Kingdom, Children are Unbeatable and the Churches’ Network for Non-violence held a candlelight vigil on November 20 in Cardiff Bay, Wales, calling for an end to corporal punishment.
GNRC and UNICEF brought together religious leaders and politicians in Panama November 6-24 to address the stereotype that youth are the cause of violence in Panama.
In the Dominican Republic, the GNRC and the non-governmental organization Coalition for Children brought together more than 60 religious leaders from different religions and denominations, presenting to them a National Roadmap on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Children, which will formally launch there in 2014.
Ending child marriage, which is often associated with violence against girls, is one of World Day's major goals. In Nepal, Shanti Sewa Ashram on November 22 hosted a panel discussion with religious leaders on ending early marriage.
In Somalia, religious and government leaders joined UNICEF officials on November 15 for the official signing of a Fatwa outlawing female genital mutilation (or circumcision), another form of violence against girls.
While fostering meetings between secular and religious leaders in November remains a large part of World Day’s work, it has grown into a movement that works all year, weaving together the efforts of faith-based and non-governmental organizations with those of governments around the world.
For the Sake of 1,000,000 Children in India
On November 13, the Gandhian organizations Shanti Ashram and Namadhu Pangu, with the help of World Day, launched the “Standing Up with One Million Indian Children” program to improve the lives of one million children in India. More than 2,000 school children and principals from 100 schools attended the launch ceremony.
Shanti Ashram and Namadhu Pangu, together with other partners, will work throughout the year with the government agency National Foundation for Communal Harmony and the private sector corporation CII-South Zone. Standing Up with One Million Indian Children will verify birth certificates, arrange age-appropriate immunizations, introduce ethics education in the schools, and push to increase child literacy in ten Indian states.
“The Shanti Ashram Standing Up with One Million Indian Children program is exactly the kind of year-long impact that we want to have,” said Meg Gardinier, director of the World Day of Prayer and Action Secretariat in New York. “Our Council decided earlier this year that World Day activities should concentrate on touching the daily lives of children,” Gardinier said. “Now, we focus on helping our partner organizations add value to their programs beyond November 20.”
In Kenya, the Center for Rights Education and Awareness in Nairobi has been working with World Day's parent organization, Arigatou International, to develop an ongoing program in the village of Kibera, which has some of the worst basic services in East Africa.
In neighboring Tanzania, the GNRC just concluded a three-year campaign to stop violence against children. World Day of Prayer and Action for Children was marked in Dar es Salam on November 20 by a peace march – made up of children and a police band – which ended at Mnazi Mmoja Grounds, a large public square.
Although it is moving toward continual activity, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is still a day of prayer and contemplation. It was celebrated on November 20 by prayer in many places in the world. In Libertia, for instance, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used radio to ask Liberians to pause for a minute of prayer. UNICEF and Inter Religious Council of Liberia arranged for church bells to ring at noon and for imams to call for prayer at the same time.