UNICEF, EGYPTIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS RELEASE STUDIES ON FGM, OTHER VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

Al-Azhar Al-Sahrief, Al-Azhar University and the Coptic Orthodox Church, in cooperation with UNICEF, launched three publications by religious scholars on Islamic and Christian perspectives on protecting children from violence and harmful practices.

Religious leaders from Egypt’s two main faiths united to present their perspectives in a joint publication Peace. Love. Tolerance. Key Messages from Islam and Christianity on Protecting Children from Violence and Harmful Practices.

The publication, the first ever joint document on this issue, provides guidance for parents, caregivers, teachers and religious leaders on avoiding and preventing violence, while working towards putting an end to violence against children.

The document addresses 11 forms of violence and harmful practices faced by children in Egypt, the region and around the world. It covers child and forced marriage; female genital mutilation/cutting; discrimination among children; child labour; sexual abuse of children; absence of family care and homelessness; domestic violence against children; violence in schools and education institutions; children in armed conflicts; trafficking of children; and violence against children on television and the internet.

According to the latest data, 6 out of 10 children around the world have experienced physical punishment – nearly 1 billion children aged 2-14 years. In Egypt, 78 per cent of children of this age group are exposed to corporal punishment by their caregivers.

Grand Imam and Shaykh of Al-Azhar Prof. Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayib, said: “Fulfilling children’s rights is one of the key pillars of Islamic Law. This is a matter of safeguarding religion, the soul, mind, our offspring and prosperity. Children’s rights exist for the protection of our offspring.”

Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the Holy See of Saint Mark, said: “Children are a gift to humanity. A philosopher was once asked: ‘Is there any evidence that God still loves people despite their sins?’ He answered: ‘Certainly, and the evidence is that God creates for us millions of children every day.’ Children are like flowers in our lives. We have to love them and treat them in a good way, and understand their needs.”

For his part, the Egypt’s Minister of Awkaf, Prof. Dr. Mokhtar Gomaa, said: “Islam is a religion of mercy. It takes care of children at every stage of their lives. The Ministry of Awkaf will contribute effectively through its distinguished imams, particularly the young ones, who will join other institutions in delivering the messages included in these publications.”

Professor Gamal Abou El-Serour, Egypt’s Director of the International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research (IICPSR), said: “The importance of the messages conveyed in these publications lies in providing the correct perspective of the Islamic ‘Sharia and in refuting some misconceptions relating to violence against children and harmful practices.”

Bishop Yolios, Bishop of Public, Ecumenical and Social Services (BLESS), said: “Childhood is a fertile time for the growth of all that is wonderful. To protect our children and society it is very important that the message of these publications reaches every caregiver and all relevant religious and social entities.”

Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa region said: “This joint initiative comes at a critical time for the region, where children are experiencing unprecedented levels of violence. He added: “We do hope that other religious institutions in the region will endorse this initiative and work together towards decreasing all forms of violence against children.”

Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt, welcomed the cooperation with Al-Azhar AlSharief and the Coptic Orthodox Church: “These publications contribute to reasserting the values of non-violence against children. UNICEF will work toward distributing these messages in Egyptian communities, so that all children are able to grow in a healthy environment and reach their full potential.”

The participants at the launch signed a joint declaration affirming the fundamental place of children’s rights in all religions, cultures and societies and their crucial role in children’s healthy growth and well-being. According to the declaration, protecting children from violence and harmful practices in all its forms is a collective responsibility

Source: Nam News Network