“An unequivocal ‘no’ to violence against children”

Children behind an onion tank to filter drinking water in Minawao refugee camp. Cameroon, December 2017. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner
Children behind an onion tank to filter drinking water in Minawao refugee camp. Cameroon, December 2017. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

LWF and End Violence Partnership join hands to raise awareness and work to end violence against children

(LWI) - On 16 September 2021, as part of the Together to #EndViolence Solutions Summit Series, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) pledged to raise awareness and strengthen advocacy on how to prevent violence against children with the support of member churches and in collaboration with key partners.

The LWF and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (End Violence Partnership) co-hosted an online event “Faith-Based Actors and Preventing Violence Against Children: A Global Perspective from LWF.” The event brought together 80 participants from around the world and showcased the engagement of LWF member churches and LWF’s humanitarian and development work while highlighting insights from partners.

Upholding the Sanctity of Children

Every year, at least 1 billion children – half of the world’s children – experience violence, according to United Nations (UN) reports. The UN report “Keeping the Promise: Ending Violence Against Children by 2030,” states that refugee and migrant children often find that violence is a “constant companion: driving them from their home countries, accompanying them on their journey, and waiting for them at their destination.”

In his opening address, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge said, “Every single person is endowed with dignity, with a sanctity which is a part of the person. This is one of the deep held faith convictions of churches all over the world, of many faiths, about the inherited value of life, including human life.” Through its member churches and humanitarian operations, the LWF advocates for the most vulnerable, and is a strong proponent to end violence against children.

Videos and presentations from LWF country programs and member churches in Colombia, Uganda, Nepal, Argentina and Sweden were aired online at the event. In response, Dr Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, expressed gratitude to be part of such “a powerful event where we've seen the scale and the impact of violence against children around the world, and the voices of the children, and most importantly, what can, and is being done to prevent and respond to violence and abuse of children.”

Faith Based Organizations are Unique Partners

Together with the End Violence Partnership, LWF has committed to advocating and bringing awareness to the crisis of violence against children, thereby contributing to the end of violence suffered by children worldwide in their homes, schools, online and in their communities until 2030.

“Faith leaders and faith-based organizations such as the Lutheran World Federation with its 148 member churches across 99 countries reaching 77 million people are uniquely positioned to play a key role alongside children and survivors in this emerging movement,” said Dr Taylor.

LWF General Secretary Junge added that he was grateful “for the partnership that is being developed, for our shared commitment to say a clear and unequivocal ‘no’ to violence against children.”

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children stated “Religious leaders and faith-based organizations are a crucial constituency. They are well placed to act as persuasive and influential advocates for children’s protection from all forms of violence. They also have a key role in raising awareness and mobilizing local communities and families.” Furthermore, Dr. M’jid added that the COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities. "We must learn the lessons of the pandemic and recognize child protection as part of essential services. We must do more and act together now, not tomorrow, for children and with children.”

Preventing Violence For and With Children

Recognizing the role played by churches, The World Council of Churches (WCC) Acting General Secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca shared “Every church should have a solid child safeguarding policy and verify that measures are in place to prevent any misconduct in activities involving children and adolescents.”

Lokiru Matendo Yohana, global focal point for child protection at LWF , said that preventing violence against children was “particularly urgent in contexts of war and conflict, forced migration, and in marginalized communities.” Mr. Yohana added that LWF intends to strengthen existing programs with updated child protection guidelines and child safeguarding policies.

Since 2020, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been part of Swedish law, these laws include the right to spiritual development for children and assessing the impact of all decisions on children. Church of Sweden’s Archbishop Dr Antje Jackelén said “In church and society, children should have a special role. They should be invited, encouraged and empowered to participate and to be listened to.”

Together, we can do far more for securing each child's right to a standard of living, adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development
Archbishop Dr Antje Jackelén

Archbishop Dr Jackelén also said that in Swedish society there was “awkwardness in relation to faith and [the] spiritual development” of children. In the name of so-called “religious neutrality, children are sometimes deprived of access to the knowledge and experience that faith traditions provide.” However, she added, “we fail our children if we do not give them the well renowned tools to cope with existential challenges they surely will face during their lives.”

“Together, we can do far more for securing each child's right to a standard of living, adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development,” said Church of Sweden Archbishop Jackelén.

The event ended with the LWF offering four pledges to:

  1. Raise awareness among its member churches on preventing violence against children
  2. Mainstream preventing violence against children in its global humanitarian development operations
  3. Advocate globally and locally for ending violence against children
  4. Step up efforts to prevent violence against children in Latin and Central America working with the community of partners within the #ENDViolence Partnership

“We are glad to pledge to this commitment as we engage in partnership and we offer our hands, our lives and our witness to achieve this together,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Junge in conclusion.

By LWF/T.Rakoto and LWF/A.Gray