11/05/2004, 00.00
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Holy See and Islam defend children's rights

Message for the end of Ramadan.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – On several occasions in various international venues, the Holy See and Muslim countries have defended fundamental human rights. Often this has meant defending the rights of the weakest, namely the family and children. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue had devoted this year's message for Id al-Fitr—the end of Ramadan—to 'Children, Gift of God for the Future of Humanity'.

The message lays emphasis on everyone's obligation to cooperate in stopping the exploitation of children, who are too often victims of violence and abuse. This provides "further proof of the benefit that can come from religion for the whole human community".

The message points out that "today, too many children are still forced to do heavy work that endangers their physical and psychological development, prevents them from attending school and thus deprives them of the education to which they have a right. Many others are conscripted or involved in wars and conflicts. And many more have been the first victims of the increase in sexual abuse and in prostitution over these last years."

Signed by Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council, it further states: "You consider the child to be a blessing from God, in particular for the parents. As Christians we share with you this religious attitude, but our Christian faith teaches us also to discover in the child a model for our relationship with God. Jesus has given us as an example the child's simplicity and trust, docility and liveliness, showing us in this way how we should live in trusting submission to God."

"Every child," the message goes on to say, "has an inalienable right to life and, in so far as this is possible, to be welcomed within a natural, stable family. Moreover, all children have the right to nourishment, clothing and protection. [They also have the right] to be educated so that there may develop in them, and that later they may develop in themselves, all their capacities. In this perspective the child, when sick or victim of an accident, has the right to receive all necessary care. The life of the child, just as the life of every human person, is sacred."

Although too many children are still forced to work or victims of ill-treatment and violence, they "are [also] victims of certain changes in society. When families break up it is the children who are the first to suffer. The increase in the use of drugs and in drug trafficking, especially in poor countries, often involves children, to their great harm. Again, the despicable trafficking in organs concerns children in a particular way and the tragedy of AIDS often means that they are infected from birth."

Faced with so many evils that can touch children, the Catholic Church invites "our dear Muslim friends" to "unite our efforts [and remind] people of the dignity of every human being whose existence is willed by God Himself. We should untiringly denounce everything that degrades the child combating with all the force we can muster the 'structures of sin'".

"We are conscious," Mgr Fitzgerald says at the end of the message, "that the future of humanity depends on the future of children. I hope therefore that our common endeavours in favour of children will continue and may in fact increase." (FP) 

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