World Children’s Day was celebrated on November 20th. First established in 1954, this day is celebrated to promote international togetherness and improving children’s welfare. In 1959, the UN adopted the “Declaration of the Rights of the Child.” The vision behind the declaration is to affirm rights and responsibilities to each child based on their age to enable them to reach their full potential.
What are the four “Guiding Principles” of the Declaration?
There are 4 guiding principles behind the Declaration:
- Respect for the best interests of the child as the primary consideration
- The right to survival and development
- The right of all children to express their views freely on all matters affecting them
- The right of all children to enjoy all the rights of the Convention of the Rights of the Child without discrimination of any kind
The initial intent behind World Children’s Day was to define a basic set of rights that every child is entitled to. These would include access to food, clean water, shelter, be safe, an education, and be provided the opportunities to grow and become the people that God intends for us to be. I am sure everyone would be in agreement that at a minimum, these basic rights are what every parent wishes for their children. Unfortunately, there are situations where this is not the case and we as God’s children need to address these cases.
What prevents a child from his/her rights?
There are serious situations that prevent children from actually living a good life with an opportunity to grow and be the best they can be:
- Conflicts – wars and other conflicts often deny children the basic rights they are entitled to. Examples would be the wars currently waging in Israel, Ukraine, Africa, and Syria. War denies everyone their basic rights and protections. Too often in war torn areas civilians become “collateral damage” especially children. Safety disappears when countries are at war, but many times access to food, clean water, and an education are also casualties. War benefits no one, yet there always seem to be conflict in the world.
- Economic Crisis – many poor countries are unable to provide basic rights to anyone – especially children. Many countries in Africa struggle to provide clean water to their people. Providing enough food is a big challenge as well, including in the United States. We spend billions of dollars on wars and other priorities, but struggle to feed all of our people. Many countries economies are struggling these days, and our national debt is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Oppressive Governments – There are governments that spend more time on teaching kids to be warriors, and deny young girls many of the basic rights such as an education. In some countries in the Middle East, women including young girls are not viewed as being equal to men, and are believed to be there to serve men. These young girls have no rights.
What does Jesus say about children?
Jesus has always been clear concerning His view on children:
Matthew 18: 1-5 – 1 ‘At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child over, placed it in their midst, 3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’
As God’s children we need to put more effort into ensuring that children everywhere are given what they need to be positioned to succeed in life. There are organizations whose main purpose is to feed children, improve their access to the necessities, and provide the rights to they deserve:
- Catholic Charities
- Compassion International
- No Kid Hungry
These are just a few. In some countries political change is needed to ensure all kids receive the basics. This is a growing problem and I ask that as Catholics, we all do what we can to help improve children’s lives everywhere. As always, comments are encouraged and I will respond as quickly as I can.