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Marist Bulletin - Number 271


The rights of the child

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Today we gather here three reflections from Brother César Henríquez, who works at the programme of animation and education of BIS with regard to the promotion and the defence of the Rights of the Child in Geneva.
In sending these texts we are trying to animate you to join the reflexion by sending your comments through our web page.

The rights of the child

20th November: International day of the Rights of the Child. Another date which will pass unnoticed as so many others throughout the year? This date reminds me of the time I spent with children and young people in Central America, who want to find their place in the world and meaning in their life, and who face great and many difficulties.
Our Marist presence at Geneva, working for the promotion and for the defence of the Rights of the Child, wants to bring a new vitality to the efforts of renewal which are currently being carried out throughout our Institute. We need to remember here that all of us, as Marists – brothers, laypeople, students, young people belonging to apostolic groups, fraternities… – we manifest the love that God has for us all, by manifesting our love for children and young people; a love that is concretised in gestures of attention, of care and of respect towards the smallest ones. It is a love that procures security and which makes us discover that we are responsible for each other. It is the true solidarity that does not consist in giving of our surplus, but that consists in being convinced that we are part of the same humanity and that we share the same dignity as human beings. Thus, new generations will be able to believe that it is possible to commit oneself in the construction of a more just world, offering everyone equal opportunities. It is an ideal, but the reality is something different.
In a recent report from the Programme of the United Nations for development, we can read the following information: “Nearly one million, eight hundred thousand children die each year from diarrhoea and other illnesses caused by non-potable water and the lack of hygienic conditions.” In this report, it is affirmed that the world economy has increased, but that the inequalities of the level of life have also increased: “The wealthiest five hundred people in the world have revenue superior to one hundred thousand million dollars… a number that surpasses the revenue of four hundred and sixteen million of the poorest people.” It is noted that the inequality in opportunities and the revenue between wealthy countries and poor countries continue to increase. Can we speak of solidarity and stay indifferent faced with the realities as they are?
The Marist Brothers, close to two hundred years in existence and with a great deal of experience in the domain of education and the instruction of youth, have the possibility of making a different voice heard at this International Forum that is the organisation of the United Nations. We have the possibility of reminding those who govern the people of the world that everyone, but especially children, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, that they have the right to a complete and quality education, that they have the right to have indispensable health conditions that allow them a greater life expectancy; that the inequalities are the greatest obstacle to overcome if we want a world where peace, development and human rights are possible. So today, from Geneva, there are some of the requests that I am making for children. Attentive to the children of your country, your city and your place of mission, what are you requesting for them?

Violence against children

Recently a vast study on the violence against children, its causes and consequences was made public. The Study which can be read and downloaded In the documentation section of BIS, exposes a series of information that must not pass by unnoticed by us who have consecrated ourselves by our vocation to the care and formation of boys, girls and young people.
One of the numerous conclusions that the study presents is something that we already know in the Marist educational tradition: violence is one of the most frequent causes why children abandon school. The study mentions that between twenty and sixty-five percent of school aged boys and girls say they have been verbally or physically abused during the last thirty days, and it claims that physical punishment is a common practice in the schools of a large number of countries.
Another aspect to be highlighted is the fact that the majority of violent acts against boys, girls and adolescents are perpetrated by people who are part of their lives: father, mother, teachers, school friends, employers and caregivers. Any type of violence against children has been forbidden only in sixteen countries, leaving the large majority of the child population of the world without adequate legal protection against violence.
As Marists, what should we do and say? Or better still: what more should we do and say? What can we contribute as persons and as an Institute present in seventy-six countries in order to eradicate violence against children? How can we change the attitude of adults who consider physical and psychological violence against children acceptable? I invite the persons who read this blog: brothers, teachers, mothers and fathers in a family, but especially the young, to share their point of view on violence against children in a Marist perspective.

Who is the most important? (Mark 9, 30-37)

I am starting a series of reflections that I want to offer to everybody, brothers and laypeople, who visit our webpage, and thus share the experiences that we Marists have started at Geneva for the promotion of the defence of the Rights of the child. They are commentaries and reflections that want to contribute their grain of sand to the great effort that is already being done at the level of the Institute in the preparation of the Marist International Mission Assembly. The title of this “blog” alludes to the Gospel that we have just heard last Sunday: Jesus places a child in the middle of the group, hugs him and invites us to welcome the Kingdom of his Father with the attitude of a child.
Champagnat wanted his brothers to announce to the children and young people of his time the Good News of the Kingdom, Good News that was accompanied by a complete formation: that of the mind and that of the spirit. For him, to raise a child was a more important work than governing the world.
We Marists, continuing the dream of Marcellin, make Evangelisation and Education the essential elements of our mission. And we seek to realise that by being attentive to the signs of the times.
The world in which we are developing our mission presents perspectives that are often discouraging: wars, violence, poverty, forced emigrations, abuse, exploitation… Communications and the economy have been globalised… we must also globalise solidarity.
Our presence in Geneva claims precisely this: by contributing our experience and the voice of the recipients of our mission, we will collaborate with many people and organisations who are seeking peace and justice for all through the United Nations. As Marists, we will concentrate on demanding education for all, a stop to the violence against children, and that they are given the possibility of being protagonists in the construction of their own future.
What realities of our mission and its recipients need greater attention in our countries?

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