9 June 2014

Our Children; Our Treasures | Guest Post for International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

"Our Children; Our Treasures is a call to each soul to reflect once more on the role we all play in safeguarding the rights of the children of the world, and a challenge to rise and do all that is needed to keep these treasures for they hold our future in their hands and in their hearts."-- Editor's note.

The children of the world are one of our most valuable assets and at the same time, one of our most vulnerable. Having the same basic human rights as every other human being is the God-given right of the children in our societies. What are human rights? Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status (age is a status). We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Our very humanity and inherent knowledge of "right" and "wrong" implores us to come together with great urgency and take action to protect, nurture and care for the children of the world. They are our treasures; they hold our future in their hands and in their hearts.

We must hold all of humanity responsible for the safety and well-being of our children and hold accountable at every turn, those who would harm them. History tells us that on August 19,1982, at its emergency special session on the question of Palestine, the UN General Assembly, “appalled at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression”, decided to commemorate June 4th of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression (resolution ES-7/8).  I have learned that the purpose of this day of "observance" is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. This day also affirms the UN's commitment to protect the rights of children.

Is this commitment the responsibility of the United Nations alone? Is it solely up to the UN to take on the cause of the protection of the children of the world? Who are the people, the organizations, the programs that will do the job of protecting? Is it not all of humanity? Is it not every man, woman, boy and girl using their eyes, ears and their hearts to seek and speak up to protect and get justice for these children who cannot protect their own rights? 

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted In 1959 by the United Nations General Assembly and the first major international consensus on the fundamental principles of children’s rights was marked by this event. The Geneva Declaration, a historic document that recognized and affirmed for the first time the existence of rights specific to children and the responsibility of adults towards children (in 1924) was adopted by the League of Nations (LON). These rights state that: 

(1) All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, colour sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.

(2) Children have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.

(3) Children have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.

(4) Children have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.

(5) Children have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.

(6) Children have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help

(7) Children have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Parents have special responsibilities for the education and guidance of children

(8) Children have the right always to be among the first to get help, 

(9) Children have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. children shall not be obliged to do work which hinders their development both physically and mentally. Children should not work before reaching the minimum age for child labor and never when that would hinder a child's health, and their moral and physical development, 

(10) Children should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.

All the observances in the world means very little if we do not make strides to take action in every reported case and level of abuse and harm to our children. We are their voices and we must advocate for them. It is up to each of us to protect them and make sure no one violates their rights and their innocence. I dare say that one day we will have to look back at our ourselves, at our actions or lack of action, and answer to generations to come as to why we failed in such a shameful way. Our grandchildren will sit in their class rooms reading their history books and look to us for these answers and we must be prepared with an honest and proper response. We will have to look them in the eye and tell them why everything else took a front seat, why these things took priority over our children.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said "Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Well I say to you-- Our children matter! We are those who must dedicate ourselves to protect the Human Rights of children; it is our obligation. In ending I challenge you to ask yourself and leave you to investigate these four (4) questions:

(1) How are we (the people of the world) "observing" the day, June 4th, i.e. are there specific actions taken around the world to observe International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression?

(2) Is there any call to act, respond or seek and bring to justice those who would harm our children which goes along with this observance?

(3) Other than law enforcement, who are the agencies, groups, organizations doing the job of protecting?

(4) Are you committed and what will you do to protect our children-- your own child, your relative's child, your neighbor's child, a stranger's child, children of other countries?

Elayne Mitchell is a Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Cousin, Godmother, Friend, Protector of Children and a Servant of Christ.

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