(Vatican Radio) People around the world were shocked to see horrific images of children who drowned in the attempt to flee conflict or were victims of the chemical bombing in Syria. Tragic events such as these remind us of the importance to protect children from harm, whatever the cause may be.
Listen to the report by Colleen Knudsen:
On the Feast of the Holy Innocents back in December, Pope Francis wrote a letter urging Bishops to protect children. He said, “Christian joy is born from a call – the same call that St. Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day.”
Bill Van Esveld is a senior researcher for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, an NGO that independently reports on and puts pressure on ending human rights abuses in about 90 countries. He spoke with Colleen Knudsen about the different issues and struggles children face around the world as well as what needs to be done to protect children and their rights.
“The biggest concern is that the facts occurred to these images being produced.” Van Esveld explains that his organization wants to stay focused on protecting children from any and all harm that leads to pictures and videos of them in pain and suffering.
“You know, we want to keep our eye on the ball, which is that not just chemical weapons but all sorts of conventional weapons are being used in unlawful attacks that are killing children and leading to these pictures being shown around the world. At least people who see the pictures are aware of what is going on, but I don’t think it’s necessary to always broadcast that.”
Child marriage is another major children’s rights issue in parts of the world. “This is a really serious rights concern.” He says the ways to solve this issue in particular are to reach out to the parents, inform them of the dangers their daughters may face, and create alternatives for their families. “Some families don’t want to marry off their daughters, but they see no other possible way to even give that girl enough food to eat.”
And as for gender equality within the fight for child education, young girls in many countries are being denied that right. But Van Esveld argues that it is very important that these girls have the same educational rights as boys. “Continuing to improve girl access to education is just about the smartest investment a country or humanitarian agency could make for the future.”
Van Esveld stresses that a way to improve the lives of all children in impoverished countries is through education. “One of the most important things one can do for children’s rights is to allow children to get an education, support them in their education and insure particularly that that is a safe place to be, that there is no corporate punishment at home or in the school and that boys, girls and no matter what your legal status may be in the country that you are able to go to school.”
The right to education not only provides boys and girls with an opportunity to further their knowledge, but it gives them a safe place to grow and be children. So, education is not only one way to protect human dignity and save the lives of many children. It is also the most important tool we have of giving them the skills to build a better future for themselves.