The 5th Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children was held in Panama City. Participants agreed to a declaration to end violence against children. The family is basic “cell of society". Married couples and the extended family of grandparents, relatives, and neighbours must be helped.
Panama City (AsiaNews) – Faith leaders from 70 countries, joined by representatives of governments, the United Nations, and international and grassroots organisations, met in Panama City, Panama, for the 5th Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), organised by Arigatou International. Here they made a solemn commitment to engage in greater effort and cooperation in the cause of ending violence against children
Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai (Maharashtra) was one of the participants. In his final Prayer for Children, he asked God, “through my reaching out, to wipe away the tears of so many children who cry because they are sick, because they are forced to carry arms, because they are deprived of love they need [. . .] O God, please hear the voice of all children especially those who are suffering.
“The children have wisdom for building peace, capacity to bring happiness in our world, force of justice and joy of lasting friendship. [...] The children have wisdom for building peace, capacity to bring happiness in our world, force of justice and joy of lasting friendship.”
The bishop noted that "Children throughout the world desire peace," but increasingly they are the victims of moral and physical violence. For this reason, forum participants adopted the "The Panama Declaration on Ending Violence Against Children," which includes a set of strategies and mechanisms to curb child abuse, exploitation, torture and economic and sexual trafficking.
Reiterating his commitment to children, the archbishop stressed that the family is the first domain in which to start. Indeed, children, he said, "cannot be isolated from the context of the family. [. . .] Our reflection on the plight of the children cannot be dissociated from the family. I firmly believe that if families can be strengthened and assisted to perform as they should, our children would grow with the care, love and protection they truly deserve.”
For this reason, citing Pope Francis, he reiterated the need to "strengthen the married couple" and the “sanctity of marriage". Couples, guided on a path of education within each community, could themselves guide other couples in trouble in what the bishop calls "co-responsibility among couples."
"[W]e need to think of the family as a wider reality," he added, not only in terms of the parents-children relationship. Grandparents, Mgr Machado noted, are our “roots", they are "the living memory” of a family. The stories they tell speak of " the lived history of the family and of the surrounding society" and “do immense good to the children."
Family relationships include brothers and sisters, cousins, and friends. “The family is the first school to learn human values [. . .] where children learn to socialize [. . .] to listen, to share, to support, to respect, to help and to live together. [. . .] It is in the family that we are taught to break away from our naturally egoistic tendencies”.
The family can also be a protagonist of an integral ecology, because it is the first basic and social cell of society. It can be a school where people learn to promote peace-building, and the context for the integral development of every person.
“May children find in the family nurturing spirituality, real protection, strong comfort to grow in their humanity. May children lead us beyond all divisions.”
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)