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Church and al-Azhar join UNICEF for children

Marina Barsoum

15 May 2016 8:58 pm

A recent conference has been held under the title “Together to Protect Children”,

in which both the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Cairo-based topmost Islamic

authority al-Azhar joined UNICEF to launch the cause of protecting children from

violence.

Participating were Pope Tawadros II; Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb;

Ghada Wali, Minister of Social Solidarity; Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Religious

Endowments; Anba Yulius, Bishop-General of Social Services; Peter Salama,

UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa; and Bruno

Maes, UNICEF representative in Egypt. Attending were also a number of officials

and members of the diplomatic corps in Cairo, as well as Coptic and Muslim

clergy and activists in the field of children causes.

First joint publications

The conference celebrated the publication of the first three Coptic Islamic

publications to raise awareness of the cause of violence against children. They

were the fruit of the first joint endeavour by Church and Mosque.

Mr Maes welcomed such cooperation saying that: “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.”

“Violence against children has different forms that happen everywhere. Egypt is

not an exception,” he said. “Usually the unseen is unnoticed; however, during the

past ten years things became much clearer. The report of the UN Secretary General

about violence against children issued in 2006 stated the first international effort to

document the fact of violence against children around the world and to put map to

what is happening to put an end to it. The study succeeded as well in increasing the

global awareness to the problem that used to be hidden.

“None of the countries denied the existence of violence against children inside its

borders. Accordingly, many countries developed plans to prevent and stop violence

against children. The evidences of the effect of violence against children on their

life, health and luxury was clearly documented and the cause was included in the

new development agenda that aims to continuous development together with

creating a fund to support local efforts.”

Let the children come

Anba Yulius began with the Bible’s words: “Let the little children come unto me,

and forbid them not, for unto such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 19: 14). He

said the Church cares for children even before they are born, providing health

programmes for pregnant women in all the parishes from Alexandria in the North

to Aswan in the South. The Bible says that children are a heritage from the Lord,

and Jesus Christ embraced them with utmost love. “It is our duty, then,” Anba

Yulius said, “to embrace children and offer them protection and love.”

Ms Wali talked about the Egyptian government’s childcare programme, stressing

that children represent a priority for the State. Egypt abides by all international

agreements and treaties related to children, she said. She referred to the importance

of religious speech, education and the media in forming a culture that cares for and

protects children. Ms Wali added that she was optimistic because of the presence

of 89 women in the parliament can work on issuing more gentle legislations for

children. Finally, she thanked UNICEF for the support it provides in the field of

child care; and the cooperation with al-Azhar and the Church to help homeless

children combat drugs addiction among the young.

Growing into loving adults

Ms Wali talked about the Egyptian government’s child care programme, stressing

that children represent a priority for the State. Egypt abides by all international

agreements and treaties related to children, she said. She referred to the importance

of religious speech, education and the media in forming a culture that cares for and

protects children. Ms Wali added that she was optimistic because of the presence

of 89 women in the parliament can work on issuing more gentle legislations for

children. Finally, she thanked UNICEF for the support it provides in the field of

child care; and the cooperation with al-Azhar and the Church to help homeless

children combat drugs addiction among the young.

“Love and embrace” was the initiative launched by Pope Tawadros II in his

speech. He stressed that if our children are given love they will grow to be loving,

merciful, tolerant adults. be mercy and tolerating accordingly. He also talked about

the role of the media, sometimes termed ‘the third parent’ in the education and

awareness forming of children.

Dr al-Tayeb gave a word in which he presented Islam as a system and sharia like

no other in the whole world to protect children’s rights. For 14 centuries, he said, it

has been the source of modern science and education.

Watani International

15 May 2016


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