Celebrating “Universal Children’s Day” - November 20th
“ … we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive, because our children are the only hope for the future.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Countless faith-based and secular groups throughout the world have called us in recent decades to commemorate Universal Children’s Day on the 20th of November. The Day was first recommended by the U.N. General Assembly in 1954, observing the date on which the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and later, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The Center of Concern in Washington, DC, views Universal Children’s Day as “a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children, and of active promotion of the welfare of the world’s children.”
With our Scriptures (Mt. 19:13-14; Mk. 9:35-37) and Catholic Social Teaching often calling us to special care for our children, Catholic educators may find November 20th (or any day in November) a “teachable moment” for the justice issue of children’s rights around the world. Suggested prayers, Church teaching, case stories and facts are provided below.
With you in prayer and concern for our children,
Mary Jeanne Lindinger-Olsen
O God of the children of Somalia, Sarajevo, South Africa, and South Carolina
Catholic Social Teaching concerning Children’s Rights
“Special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity and a great respect and generous concern for their rights. This is true of every child, but it becomes all the more urgent the smaller the child is and the more she or he is in need of everything, when she or he is sick, suffering or handicapped. By fostering and exercising a tender and strong concern for every child that comes into this world, the Church fulfills a fundamental mission …” Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio
A Composite Case Study from the World of Child Labor: “Myriad”
My name is Myriad.
I live in Central America, Pakistan, China, South America, Bangladesh, Saipan, Taiwan, Indonesia …
I am as young as 4 and can be physically spent, of no further use, and thrown away by the time I am 15 years of age.
I am forced to work from 70-110 hours a week, and my typical workday is at least 12-14 hours long. I work 6 days a week – often 7 – and earn as little as 6 cents an hour. My factory has armed guards, no windows, no fire exits, and working conditions are often toxic and very unsafe. I am kept behind locked gates. During my only half-hour break, I race to the factory fence and reach through the barbed wire to buy the little food I can afford.
My home is a bed in a dirty, cramped dorm, and my food is frequently thin gruel and bread; and for these “luxuries,” money is deducted from my pay at the will of my employer.
I am insulted, beaten, fined, body-searched, sexually abused.
I make your jeans, your shoes, your rugs, your handbags, your shirts, your toys.
I am a child … I am a child of God.
(Adapted from Barbara Richardson’s Reflection, UNICEF)
Facts about Children’s Rights
· 125 million children around the world are denied the chance to go to school – these numbers equal the total of all children in North America and Europe. Most of the children denied an education are girls.
· Ten million children under age 5 die each year, most of them from preventable diseases and malnutrition.
· Some 52 million toys are produced each year for export by China, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh and India – most of them by child workers.
· Half a billion children worldwide survive on less than $1 per day.
Suggestion for Action
The U.S. and Somalia are the only nations in the world that have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ratification of this document is necessary to begin the process of ensuring children’s rights. Encourage students to write the President and members of Congress, to urge them to ratify the Convention. See http://www.aiusa.org/children/crn_sampleprint.html for a sample letter to send to your Senator.