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The First Meeting of the GNRC – UNICEF Joint Study Project held in Tokyo, Japan

The joint GNRC – UNICEF project Children in World Religions has started with a first meeting of the Study Team on May 15 – 17, 2007 in Tokyo, Japan.
The meeting, which assembled experts in religious and/or spiritual communities, was hosted by the Arigatou Foundation. The members of the study team included scholars, educators and practitioners working with children from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Indigenous traditions. Representatives from East Asian religious traditions will join the study team shortly.
 
The Outline of the project indicates that the study will assess how the child, children and young people are portrayed in religious scriptures, are cared for, are ministered to and are treated in religious communities and how young people view themselves in their religious context. The members of the study team were called upon to share their respective knowledge with the aim that the collective conversations and deliberations be an important interfaith dimension of the study.
 
This study seeks to examine how, over centuries, major world religions have developed their respective views on the child, including their rights and obligations, and how their communities (parents, family, educators, etc.) have internalized these norms. These norms will then be compared to those reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is an important frame for the scope of the study. 
 
The study will provide information as well as tools and material addressing how religious communities relate to and can contribute to a better world for children. The overall outcome is envisaged as both a resource and an advocacy tool for a multitude of constituencies. Several products will emanate from the overall outcome, including a manual with information for advocacy initiatives, leaflets on specific issues and ideas for discourses on specific issues. The outcome of the Study will be launched at the Third Forum of the GNRC, which will be held in Hiroshima, Japan in May 2008
 
Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, Representative of the Arigatou Foundation welcomed the study team members at the opening of the meeting and expressed his expectations and hopes for the study on behalf of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC). He underlined that this is an important step in bringing about the resources of the religious and spiritual traditions for a better world for children. Ms Rima Salah, former Deputy Secretary General of UNICEF greeted the members of the study team on behalf of UNICEF and expressed her satisfaction that this study is about to materialize. UNICEF has just completed a revision of a study on Children in Islam in cooperation with Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, which has received a lot of interest. This is the first time that UNICEF is involved in an inter-religious project and Ms. Salah underlined the commitment from UNICEF to this very important study.
 
The Project Coordinator for the joint study is Dr Patrice Brodeur, Associate Professor at the University of Montreal, Canada. The first meeting served to bring the members of the study team together for a first encounter to assure a common approach to the project, recognizing the diversity of identities, interests, and expertise regarding the topic. The members of the study team have now committed to produce their input from their respective religious and spiritual tradition by the end of September. A second meeting of the study team will take place in Florence, Italy in October 2007, at which time the interfaith dimensions and perspectives of the study project will be addressed.  It is hoped that the collaborative venture will strengthen each respective religious and spiritual community as well as various forms of secular institutions, whether governmental or otherwise, to be more attentive to the implementation of the shared hope for a better future for all the children of the world.
 
The joint GNRC – UNICEF project "Children in World Religions" is an undertaking under a Project Cooperation Agreement between UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, and the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) signed in May 2004 in Geneva. This agreement aims at researching and documenting resources on teachings, approaches, perspectives and practices in world religions vis-à-vis the individual child, children and young people.