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Civil Society, Faith-based and Multilateral Organizations, and Academia Come Together to Address Violence in Early Childhood

Arigatou International Geneva launched a new Consortium with civil society, faith-based and multilateral organizations, and Academia to work together to challenge violence in early childhood and mobilize religious communities to support families in nurturing safe and protective environments for children.

Children thrive and grow in trusting relationships with people who love and care for them. Ideally, and for the most part, this happens within their homes. Sadly, it also cannot be denied that the home is the place where most abuses occur. According to the most recent UNICEF report, close to 300 million (three in four) children aged two to four worldwide experience violent discipline by their caregivers on a regular basis; and 250 million children (around six in ten) are punished by physical means.

The new Consortium will work to foster collaboration, share good practices and develop evidence-based and innovative approaches in religious communities that contribute to end violence in early childhood, challenging social and cultural norms that justify it and supporting families to nurture values and spirituality in children.   

The Consortium was launched in Geneva from 3 to 4 July, preceded by a one day public seminar that looked at the intersections between early childhood development, violence against children, positive parenting practices, the critical role of nurturing spirituality in children that can break the cycle of violence in the family, and the role that religious communities play.   

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During the seminar, panelists shared good practices, reflected on the impact of violence in early childhood development and how nurturing care has fundamental intergenerational implications on well-being, productivity, and social cohesion. They discussed the need to support caregivers to create safe spaces for children for inner self-reflection, to nurture compassion and empathy, as well as to develop skills to respond to children’s needs in non-violent ways. Nurturing children’s spirituality has to be in synergy with protection and safety, providing a stimulating environment and opportunities to learn but also affectionate and responsive interactions to develop human values. 

Panelists also engaged in discussions about overcoming violence against children by challenging those traditions that see the child as human being inherently flawed, and through theological reflections transforming our view of the child as a flower that needs to be nurtured and that has an innate potential that is only positive.

During the working meeting of the Consortium, participants discussed the vision, goals, and objectives of the consortium, as well as reflected on the critical importance of working with religious communities, and the role of spirituality in religious and non-religious settings. Participants discussed the importance of investing in understanding different religious traditions and to unpack the different visions of a flourishing child. The meeting ended with the development of an Action Plan that articulates activities to raise awareness on the topic of violence in early childhood and the role of religious communities to foster positive values; advocacy, research and the development of holistic approaches. 

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During the coming months, the Consortium will finalize its Road Map and Action Plan to initiate implementation in selected countries. 

Many thanks to all participating organizations and to all partners for their commitment and collaboration to make the seminar and the launch of the Consortium happen.

The following were the participating organizations at the meeting: Catholic Relief Services, the Early Childhood and Peace Consortium, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, Pastoral da Crianca International, Sarvodaya Movement Sri Lanka, Shanti Ashram India, UNICEF, Faculty of Theology and the Sciences of Religion – University of Montreal, the World Bank and World Vision International. Individual experts are also part of the Consortium: Ms. Caroline Arnold; Mt Rev. Bishop Duleep De Chickera; Dr. Ilham Nasser; Dr. Imam Rashied Omar and Prof. Anantanand Rambachan.

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