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This page contains teachings of some of the major religions about violence against children, including corporal punishment. There are references and links to resources and publications and there are reports of action and advocacy for children taken by different religious groups.
A Multi-religious Commitment to Confront Violence Against Children
in Toledo, Spain during 2006. Participants from 30 countries representing many faiths pledged support for the UN Global Study on Violence against Children. The conference produced a Declaration entitled “A Multi-Religious Commitment to Confront Violence against Children” which was endorsed at the 8th World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Kyoto, Japan, in August 2006. It states:
We call upon our governments to adopt legislation to prohibit all forms of violence against childen, including corporal punishment, and to ensure the effective implementation of these laws and to ensure that religious communities participate formally in these mechanisms.”
Download a copy of the Kyoto Declaration in full:
Religions for Peace is a multi-faith organisation which promotes peace through religious dialogue. http://www.wcrp.org/
Downloadable chart – What the world religions say about children
From Commitment to Action: What Religious Communities Can Do to Eliminate Violence Against Children (2010) UNICEF; Religions for Peace
From Commitment to Action(English)
From Commitment to Action (French)
The Bahá’i teachings ground human rights in what is regarded as the objective spiritual nature of the human person. The Bahá’i Faith teaches its followers to abstain from violence; violence against children is forbidden.
The Bahá’i commitment to justice and human rights is an essential and tangible expression of faith. During the 19th century, the founder of the Bahá’i Faith, Bahá’ulláh prohibited corporal punishment of children in his scriptures. He said:
“Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart….it is not permissable to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child’s character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse.”
The basic tenets of Buddhism are completely against imposing pain on others and there is no room for violence in the Dharma (teachings of Buddha). Buddhism is concerned with the welfare of all beings. Sigâlovâda Sutta makes the point that if everyone develops compassion, mutual respect, courtesy (sammânanâya) and loving kindness (mettâ) children will not suffer corporal punishment.
Bhuddist values and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The child is at the heart of Bhutan’s development. UNICEF Bhutan has translated the guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into a Mandala – blending the Buddhist approach to life with the basic framework of the UNCRC. “Developing a child is like building a healthy nation” said Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. The three pillars of the UNCRC – non-discrimination, the best interest rule and participation – are inherent in Bhutan’s Buddhist values. These social values protect the dignity, the equality and the fundamental rights of the child. Source UNICEF
In Sanskrit ‘mandala’ means circle or centre. The centre is the abode of the deity, and in this case the child is placed in the centre surrounded by a series of circles and squares symbolising the provisions and principles of the Convention. The mandala is traditionally a symbol used for concentrating the mind so that it can pass beyond superficial thoughts and focus more precisely on valued concepts progressing toward enlightening the mind.http://www.unicef.org/bhutan/mandala.htm
UNICEF Bhutan worked with a group of school children learning about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and encouraged them to promote it to other children. These young enthusiasts expressed artistically what the general principles of the Convention – survival, development, protection and participation – meant to them in their daily lives. Source UNICEF see: www.unicef.org/bhutan/childtochild.htm
Christians believe human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and look to the example of Jesus to live their lives. Jesus always treated the vulnerable with love and compassion.
All the recorded encounters between Jesus and children were kind, gentle and respectful, and his reported words about causing children to stumble (Matthew 18:6), and the consequences for doing so are amongst the strongest in the New Testament. Children were central to the new social order Jesus initiated. When he set a little child in the midst of the disciples and said “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14) he demonstrated enormous regard for children. Scripture should always be read in the light of Jesus’ teachings and example.
Busan, South Korea
the Churches’ Network for Non-violence and Save the Children jointly hosted an interactive exhibition entitled “Justice for Children – End legalised violence against children” at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), held in Busan, South Korea, 28 October to 8 November 2013.
For the first time in its history the WCC held Ecumenical Conversations on the “Churches’ Advocacy for Children’s Rights”. An open statement – “Putting Children in the Center” was endorsed by ecumenical bodies, alliances and child rights advocates who took part in the conversations:
“In the accomplishment of God’s mission our churches, ecumenical bodies, interfaith networks, NGOs and inter-governmental organisations have to respond to the ethical, moral and spiritual imperative to uphold children’s dignity by:
Click here for a full copy of : Putting Children at the Center
A Progress Report: “Prohibiting Corporal Punishment of Children in the Caribbean” was published in May 2012 by The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children in collaboration with the Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report charts the progress and delay in prohibiting and eliminating corporal punishment of children in the Caribbean and reveals the high level of support among faith groups and others for its abolition.
Click here for a copy of the Caribbean Report 2012
Writing in the Jamaica Observer (11/3/2012) in an article, Cold Comfort Bishop Howard Gregory, now Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands stated:
“In the administration of corporal punishment there is a coming together of authority, force and violence in a relationship between parties who are not equal and which leaves one party with physical and emotional pain and scars. It has long been recognised that in a civilised society no one should have such control over the life of another, without being subject to public scrutiny by the relevant authorities – not even parents.
So no longer is it possible for parents to argue, as they did in times past, that “it is my child and I can do what I want”, neither can the agents of the state operate as if they have absolute control and are above accountability to the public they exist to serve. Today, there are universally recognised rights of the child, and institutions have been established to enforce the same.”
In May 2007 the new Zealand Parliament legislated to give children equal protection from assault in the home. An overwhelming majority of the country’s parliamentarians supported the cross-party proposal ledby Green MP Sue Bradford. Al New Zealand Anglican Bishops declared their support for the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act which allowed the use of “reasonable force” by way of correction”, presenting a signed statement – “Removing the Loophole” – to the Prime Minister, Helen Clark. In response to Christians who argue that the Bible condones corporal punishment the Bishops said: “As Christians, our reading of the Bible must always be done through the lens of Christ’s teaching and life.”
A Prayer Vigil “Let the Children Come” was held in Wellington Cathedral and attended by MPs and people of most Christian denominations. Click here for a copy of the Vigil
“Unreasonable Force – New Zealand’s journey towards banning physical punishment of children”, by Beth Wood, Ian Hassall and George Hook, Save the Children, New Zealand, 2008.
Chapter 5 “The Role of Religion” describes the part played by Christians in the campaign to make physical punishment of children in New Zealand, illegal. It looks at the biblical roots of physical punishment and the problems encountered from religious opposition to reform. It charts the input and contribution from mainstream churches towards a pro-repeal religious perspective to the public debate.
Click here for a copy of Unreasonable Force – New Zealand’s journey towards banning physical punishment of children
Ten Positive Parenting Hints by Jean Ellerby, Barnardos New Zealand:
Click here for a copy
A Theology of Children was written by The Revd Nove Vailaau and published by Barnardos New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, to promote an informed understanding of biblical precepts about raising children with positive nurturing and non-violent discipline. Download a copy of ‘A Theology of Children’
South African Council of Churches (SACC) in support of abolition of corporal punishment
During 2007 the South African Council of Churches (SACC) an umbrella organisation representing over 16 million Christians of 26 denominations in South Africa – supported by Save the Children produced a document explaining the religious arguments against corporal punishment (“Religions, the Promotion of Positive Discipline and the Abolition of Corporal Punishment”). The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office has also supported prohibition of corporal punishment during the South African Parliamentary deliberations on the Children’s Act Amendment Bill in 2007.
Click here for South African Council of Churches – “Religions, the Promotion of Positive Discipline and the Abolition of Corporal Punishment.”
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan called for an end to legalised violence against children at a Prayer Vigil held on Universal Children’s Day, 20 November 2012. The Vigil which was led by The Rev Dyfrig Lloyd, Vicar of Eglwys Dewi Sant, Caerdydd / St David’s Church, Cardiff, was supported by Children in Wales and Children Are Unbeatable! Cymru. There was a message of support from Welsh Assembly Members and Peter Newell, Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children spoke about global progress in prohibiting and eliminating corporal punishment of children.
During his address Dr Morgan said: “Jesus believed that children were not just an asset for the future or a commitment to be undertaken for the sake of society. They were of infinite value as children. They deserved as much respect and care as any other human being.”
Dr Morgan said: “None of us would ever dream of smacking an adult, why should we think smacking a child is any more acceptable.”
“They too are made in God’s image, valued as the individuals they are.”
Church leaders lit candles and said prayers on behalf of children who have suffered violence and the Archbishop washed children’s feet as a mark of respect for all children.
Dr Morgan is one of the signatories of a Statement from church leaders calling for the prohibition and elimination of all corporal punishment of children. The statement says that physical punishment as a form of discipline is “incompatible with the core religious values of respect for human dignity, justice and non-violence”. It states: “There are no circumstances under which this painful and humiliating practice can be justified.”
Lynne Hill, Policy Director of the charity Children in Wales read messages from children and Julie Morgan read a statement of support from Welsh Assembly Members. Peter Newell, Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, spoke about global progress towards the prohibition and elimination of corporal punishment.
A residential working Conference in Cambridge: Faith and Vision into Action – Ending corporal punishment of children was held at Westminster College, Cambridge 22-24 August 2011. Participants worked in six groups:
1. Ending biblical justification for corporal punishment of children. Addressing the problem texts in the Old Testament and promoting Jesus’ regard for children.
2. Working with children and young people to end corporal punishment of children.
3. Effective child protection can only be achieved if prohibition and elimination of corporal punishment is explicit in child protection policies and positive parenting initiatives.
4. Putting faith and vision into action – harnessing the universal principles of compassion, justice and equality to end corporal punishment of children.
5. Developing resources for worship on the conference theme.
6. Developing resources to meet the challenges of working with diverse cultural and religious communities – bringing about change to end corporal punishment of children.
The conference vigil was held at St Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge. Click here for a copy of the Vigil
Contact us for copies of conference papers and recommendations.
A Prayer vigil in London
A Prayer Vigil – “Non-violence and Equal Protection for Children” was held at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, London on 7th October 2008. The address was given by The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford. During the service there was an act of remembrance for all children who have suffered violence at the hands of adults, during which, the tenor bell was rung half-muffled. A message was delivered by young people from the Children Are Unbeatable! children’s campaign and the bishop washed children’s feet as a mark of respect for all children. The service was followed by a candle lit vigil in Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Commons. Click here for a copy of the Prayer Vigil
Respecting Children – Resources for worship was launched at a fringe meeting at the Lambeth conference in July 2008 by Archbishop David Moxon, Co-Presiding Bishop of New Zealand & Polynesia. The meeting, which was chaired by The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford discussed the Christian imperative to eliminate all violence against children including corporal punishment
Meet the Blobs – Stop Smacking
An activity book for young children based on the Golden Rule
Charter for Religious Communities to adopt towards
ending all forms of violence against children including corporal punishment
United Methodist Church calls for an end to corporal punishment
At its General Conference in Pittsburgh in April and May, 2004, the United Methodist Church passed two policies calling for an end to corporal punishment in homes, schools and child-care. The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Link to full details: http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=unitedmethodist
Presbyterian Church Recommends No Corporal Punishment
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly has voted in favour of recommendations for ending corporal punishment of children:
1.The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
a. encourages its members to adopt discipline methods at home, in schools, pediatric facilities and institutions (e.g. hospitals, orphanages, clinics, state institutions) and child-care facilities that do not include corporal punishment of children, and
b. encourages congregations to offer opportunities for dialogue and education on effective discipline of children.
2. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls upon all states to enact licensing laws prohibiting corporal punishment in schools and residential facilities.
18 July 2012
First Global Summit – “Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline” was held in Dallas, Texas June 2-4, 2011.
Read the Global Summit Proclamation: http://smu.edu/psychology/html/globalProclamation.html
Christian Websites in USA
The Bible and Discipline – Click Here for a Copy
Hindu culture is essentially a culture of kindness that teaches ahimsa (non-injury) and preaches against himsa (hurtfulness). A Hindu ideal has been described as: “Never injure others.” In the Hindu tradition there is no greater good than a child. Hindu parents are to lift their children into the higher nature of love, forgiveness, friendliness and security. Parents are urged to love their children and demonstrate the principle of ahimsa. Children should be allowed to develop without being hurt physically, emotionally or psychologically. Parents who are avowed to ahimsa are able to guide and teach children without hitting them.
There is a saying in Hinduism: “Siva’s followers never govern youth through fear. They are forbidden to hit children, use harsh words, neglect or abuse them. They know you can’t make a child better by making them feel worse.”
Non-violent parenting – “Corporal punishment is not discipline, nor is it a way of guiding young ones.” Hinduism Today. Click here for copy
Islam encourages every human being to place the needs of others before his own. Corporal punishment and other forms of humiliation of children conflict directly with the advice of the Prophet, which is about treating those who are under the age of seven as children (employing tenderness and compassion), treating those from seven to 14 (with care and concern) and from 14 onwards as close friends (with trust and cooperation). The noble Prophet of Islam emphasised: “Be generous, kind and noble to your children and make their manners good and beautiful.”
Anas ( R ), the Prophet’s companion said: “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate to children than the messenger of Allah.” Children are regarded as amanat (trust) from Allah. Islam does not advocate violence against children. The Prophet said, “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”
Investing in the Children of the Islamic World, UNICEF 2005 is a report of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISECO) and UNICEF. The report reviews the situation of children in 57 Muslim countries, assesses progress in the areas of health, education, child protection and HIV?AIDS, and identifies necessary action. It also provides a background document for the first Ministerial Conference on the Child, held in Rabat from 7-9 November 2005.
An example of how religious scholars have helped to change attitudes about children can be found in the Study, “Children in Islam” published by UNICEF in collaboration with Al-Azhar University, Cairo. The Study is being used in the region as a resource tool in efforts to promote the rights of the child and to eliminate harmful traditional practices.
Prominent religious leaders, including the Grand Sheikh of Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, Sayyed Mohammed Tantawi, and the Coptic Pope Shenouda 111. Both declared publicly that harmful traditional practices have “no foundation in religious texts” of either Islam or Christianity. In some areas of Islam, State laws are backed up by Shariah law. Sheikh Tantawi stated: “Parental care is the main foundation for protecting children and enabling them to enjoy the rights guaranteed by Islam. But society and state institutions also have a key role in this regard. For all children to acquire such rights without discrimination, lawmakers must also ensure children are protected from physical or moral humiliation.”
Children in Islam – Their care, upbringing and development
Includes research papers and extracts of Koranic verses, Hadiths and Sunnas that provide useful guidance on children’s rights. Page 9 states: “Shariah forbids any attack on the human body including smacking or other forms of corporal harm or sexual assault.”
Link to an Interview with Ayatollah Bojnourdi speaking about how religious leaders can help end violence against children, especially in Iran. Ayatollah Bojnourdi was speaking after the Eighth World Assembly of Religions for Peace held in Kyoto, Japan August 2006.
Speech given by Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarin Mousavi Ardebili on World Children’s Day. October 2007
“…I believe the rights of children within families, societies and other social, political and economic environments need to be mapped out as efforts are made to protect such rights. I believe children all over the world are equally entitled to these rights. Boys and girls should be given equal opportunities to tap into their rights to education, healthcare, growth and social contribution. When it comes to the problems of children, silence or denial will only worsen the situation. We need to admit to the bitter reality that violence against children does exist in houses, families, institutions and societies around the world. All means including the lofty instructions of God and the spiritual influence religious leaders wield should be tapped in order to change the situation and eliminate violent behavior against children”.
Speech given by Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei on World Children’s Day, Qom, Iran October 7th 2007
“…We all have a duty to prevent abuse and violence against children as part of efforts to ensure the welfare of humans and respect for the rights of defenseless children. We have to criminalize any act of violence against them. Besides we are duty-bound to treat them with compassion so that they would never feel humiliated or abused; something which is bound to bring about dire consequences for society…”
An example from Mauritania – Religious leaders call for ending corporal punishment of children, May 2009
The Network of Imams of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania carried out a study to assess whether corporal punishment is allowed in Islam. The evidence was overwhelming. The study found that corporal punishment of children has no place in Islam. The results of the study will form the basis of a fatwa barring physical violence against children in the education system and in the home.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and Islamic Law
Convergences and Divergences: The Philippine Case
Carmen A. Abubakar & Macrina A. Morados, Institute of Islamic Studies, University of the Philippines, 2oo6, UNICEF and UP Institute of Islamic Studies
Child Protection in Faith-Based Environments, A Guideline Report (March 2006)
Sponsored by The Muslim Institute Trust, Bait al-Mal al Islami, The Muslim Women’s Institute, The City Circle, Fatima Women’s Network.
Positive Parenting for Muslim Parents—Kirklees Parenting Forum
As part of the Madressah Project, the Parent Support Forum has produced a booklet (Positive Parenting: Give your child the best start in life). It is written for Muslim parents and describes the benefits of positive parenting and how this approach is supported by Islam. Click here for a copy
In Jainism religion and culture have deep-rooted relevance to the development of humankind and to the moral, spiritual and philosophical aspects of life. Jainism is a religion of love, compassion and respect and the right to live, for all human beings. Jains practice non-violence in action, speech and thoughts. Jains believe in “showering love and respect towards all living beings”. Jainism does not entail blind adherence to customs and traditions. It provides timely, practical solutions appropriate to our circumstances. Children learn these religious and cultural values from their parents and teachers.
Navin Shamji Dedhia, San Jose CA “Religion and Society”.
Chesed (kindness), compassion and justice are the classic Jewish values and the nourishing and protecting of human life is of prime importance in Jewish law. Historically, by the end of the Talmudic period (500CE) there was an emphasis on kindness and compassion. As a result of rabbinic teachings traditional Jewish homes were noted for treating their children with love and warmth.
“No law of the Jewish Religion decrees physical punishment of children. It stands to reason that modern Jews repudiate all degrading treatment of children.”
Morton Narrowe, Chief Rabbi Emeritus
Quote from: “Never Violence – Thirty years on from Sweden’s Abolition of Corporal Punishment.” Government Office of Sweden and Save the Children, 2009
Human Rights are the foundation of Sikhism. The fundamental Sikh tenet is that the formless Creator, the Supreme Soul resides in each individual. Each human being is entitled to equal respect and equal dignity no matter what the person’s gender, age, faith, belief or station in life may be. The Sikh Awareness Society promotes positive, not violent discipline in “Parenting Tips” to support youth and strengthen families. Click here for a copy
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