2021-07-26 GENERAL HOUSE

Understanding Children’s Inherent Right to Life, Survival, and Development

Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that “every child has the inherent right to life,” and that member countries “shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.” Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) reinforced this by prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age. Obligations flowing from this require states to adopt essential measures for the preservation and continuation of life including reducing infant mortality, increasing life expectancy, eliminating malnutrition, combating diseases, providing adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water. Yet, millions of children around the world continue to suffer avoidable death or are denied access to the essentials of life including a standard of living that would maximize their opportunities for development.

The right to survival and development stresses the need to enhance children’s health by ensuring preventive health-care measures, including immunization, the provision of adequate nutrition, hygiene, and environmental sanitation as well as their holistic development. Children’s survival and development also implies developing their talents and abilities to prepare them for a responsible life in society. Given that article 6 of the CRC touches all the areas of a child’s life, children’s development should also be interpreted in its broadest sense to embrace their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological, and social development.

As Christians, we believe that human life is sacred and a gift from God. Children’s right to life and development is not only the exclusive duty of countries and parents but also of all God-fearing people and groups including the Church, civil society organizations and religious congregations. As Marists Brothers, the Gospel imperatives of compassion for the vulnerable and respect for life convince us that children and young people must be protected from danger and treated with love and respect without compromising their dignity. Marcellin Champagnat found any form of harm to a child to be disgusting that he made every effort to prevent it happening. Regarding this, the 22nd General Chapter called all Marists of Champagnat to journey with children and young people living on the margins of life. This call continues to urge us to empower the poor and underprivileged children and young people who have no voice and be significantly present among them.

Genesis 1:28 tells us that children are part of God’s creative plan. As gifts from God to families they need nurture and guidance, discipline, special care and protection. Jesus took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:16). He did this to tell his disciples that children have God’s undivided attention. This is an invitation to us to treat children with love and care. Conscious of this, Marcellin Champagnat instructed the Brothers to be charitable toward children by giving them religious instruction and a Christian education to form them into good Christians and virtuous citizens. He constantly reminded Brothers to never forget that children are feeble creatures who need to be treated with kindness, charity, and mercy; and that they need to be formed and instructed with perfect patience. Our commitment and involvement in Child right Advocacy through the Secretariat of Solidarity in collaboration with other groups at the level of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, as well as initiatives carried out in the Marist regions and provinces to protect, and safeguard children, spring from the Gospel imperatives, Champagnat’s attitude towards children, the world-wide recognition and support of the CRC and the clarion call of the 22nd General Chapter to give special attention to children and young people who come under our care.


Brother Francis Lukong – Secretariat of Solidarity


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