Children’s day calls attention to the vulnerability of kids

  • November 29, 2013

TORONTO - On the 20th anniversary of National Child Day in Canada, representatives from the Abrahamic religions reminded members of Toronto’s interfaith community that children have the right to practise their religion and receive religious teaching, according to the United Nations 1989 Convention on the Rights of a Child.

Representatives from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities spoke at the interfaith luncheon on children’s rights on Nov. 20, which is also the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The luncheon was hosted by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute.

Children need us to encourage their spiritual well-being, said opening speaker David Rivard, CEO of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, adding that their bodies, minds, hearts and spirits need to be nurtured.

People share a sense of spirituality beyond their religious beliefs, he added.

Rev. Susan Climo, pastor of The Church of the Holy Spirit in Mississauga, was the first panelist and provided a brief history of how children have been viewed in the history of Christianity. Referring to the Gospels, especially the book of Matthew, Climo said the Bible states we need to become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven, that children understand things that adults don’t and that they also have an openness to God.

Climo went on to pose a question to the audience: Are children born completely pure and open to both good and evil? She noted that a history of Christian theologians debating this question leaned towards the latter.

Unjust structures in society could influence children to choose more sinful decisions, said Climo, adding that parenting is a vocation and that raising a child involves the home, church, community and the state.

Current trends in Christianity, said Climo, are recognizing the sacred trust adults have to raise children in the faith and to love God. Also, she said, there’s a growing trend for Christian organizations to fight human trafficking.

The second panelist was Imam Ayman Al-Taher, chaplain at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, who educated the crowd on Islamic culture relating to children. Islam, says Al-Taher, teaches that children and charity are one’s legacy. He went on to call attention to the vulnerability of children, especially in wartorn places like Syria and in domestic abuse situations.

The last speaker was Rabbi Ed Elkin of the First Narayever Congregation in Toronto, who advocated for empowering children, saying that we’re not doing enough in society to give responsibility to kids. He also called attention to child victims of war.

Every person has an “inalienable dignity and sanctity,” he said, highlighting them as images of God. He asked how much an image of God would be worth and answered his own question by saying we treat art in museums better than we do children.

If children are the most vulnerable, then orphans are the most vulnerable of children, he said, and therefore it is the responsibility of the whole community to care for them.

Elkin referenced child soldiers in Africa, child slaves in Asia, children devastated by the recent typhoon in the Philippines, poverty in Canada and Israeli and Palestinian children living in a conflict their parents have yet to solve, among other plights.

“Let us resolve to be there for our children and the children of the world,” he said.

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