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A Timely Conversation on Values and Spirituality and its Potential to Help Prevent Violence against Children

Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Director of Arigatou International Geneva, was invited to participate in the panel discussion “Holistic Approaches to Early Child Development and Education”, in the framework of the 64th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society – CIES 2020, which was converted to virtual format in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The panel discussion, which was held on 20 April 2020, gathered 60 representatives from civil society organizations, philanthropies and academia. Participants explored together with the panelists the different perspectives and approaches to whole-child or holistic early childhood development and education.

In her intervention, Ms. Uribe shared about the importance of nurturing values and spirituality in children during the early years for the prevention of violence. She focused on the importance of early childhood for the holistic development of the child. She elaborated on the critical role of nurturing spirituality in children to ensure their wellbeing, and how violence against them can deeply affect the spiritual wellbeing of children.

“Violence in early childhood can alter the developing brain’s structure and function: it can affect language acquisition and cognitive functioning, resulting in social and emotional competency deficits and generating fear, anxiety, depression, and the risk of self-harm and aggressive behavior. This can also shape later adult behavior in life,” she stated.

As convener of the International Consortium on Nurturing Values and Spirituality in Early Childhood for the Prevention of Violence, she ended her presentation by sharing about the recent work of the Consortium.

“Religious actors play a critical role in supporting parents, caregivers, and teachers in fostering values and spirituality in early childhood, and are also uniquely positioned to help communities to challenge structures and social and cultural norms that violate children’s human dignity,” she explained.

The opening remarks were delivered by Mr. Xiaoan Li, Senior Program Officer from The Fetzer Institute, followed by Ms. Katy Anis, Open Society Foundations, who presented the topic Looking through the Unconventional Lens: Weaving Early Childhood into Economics, Justice, Violence Prevention and Other Sectors.

In the same vein, Ms. Mubina Kirmani, Professor on Education at Towson University, presented Theory of Seven Spiritual Identities: A Framework for Others to Exist in Peace with Ourselves and Beyond. The discussants also included Ms. Barbara Steele, from Towson University, and Ms. Dara Feldman, from The Virtues Project.

We thank the Comparative and International Education Society – CIES, for making us part of these discussions; to the panelists, for their collaboration, and the participants, for their interest in our work.

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