‘Blue-ing’ Our Churches & Communities : National Council of Churches invitation this Advent to End Child Abuse

‘Blue-ing’ Churches & Communities, 16 Days of Activism Campaign @NCCI ( Photo Source www.boston.archive )

On 28th November 2017, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in India requested for valuable suggestions to end child abuse in the context of increasing abuse of violence on children in India. Stuti  Kacker Chairperson of NCPCR in her request letter of 28th November 2017 states: “Sexual crime against children is showing an alarming increase and there is urgent need to tackle this problem on a war footing. Parliament has already brought a comprehensive Act namely ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to punish those who commit sexual offences against children. However, there is a pressing need to formulate a broad based strategy to prevent such crime from occurring, which is only possible if all stakeholders namely children themselves, their parents, school administration, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and civil society etc. as a whole, create awareness and highlight the moral repugnancy of such crimes.”

India houses 40% of children in its total population but is ranked as the sixth most unsafe country for children in the world . In 2007, Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, supported by United Nations Children’s Fund, Save the Children and Prayas conducted a study to understand the magnitude of child abuse in India; they found that 53.22% children faced one or more forms of sexual abuse; among them, the number of boys abused was 52.94% and of girls was 47.06%. Among the 69% of physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68% were boys and 88.6% were physically abused by parents. Sixty-five percent of school going children reported facing corporal punishment; 50.2% of children worked all 7 days in a week and they never reported abuse to anyone. Children on the street, children at work, and children in institutional care reported highest incidence of sexual assault. Violence on children in 2017 has increased further. (Source: Help Line Law, Child Abuse in India, (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov ).

Revd Dr Roger Gaikwad  invites churches this advent season to respond to the request of NCPCR . He  requests  member churches and ecumenical partners in India -:

  1.  To mobilize congregations organisations and civil society as a whole to advocate for  Child Protection and Prevention Policies;
  2.  To remind  church  leaders  to empower congregations and communities to break silence regarding child abuse and violence on children.
  3. To engage in spiritual formation to end such violence on children  within home and society.
  4.  To educate and empower children at risk to be aware of different sorts of violence and various help lines .
  5.  To share the concerns that young people have about violence against children.
  6.  To raise awareness to create a culture of prevention of violence against children and girls.

According to Moumita Biswas, Executive Secretary of Women Concerns Ministry  of NCCI  “Advent is the  season  we prepare to celebrate the birth of our liberator Jesus Christ. As we prepare the crib for baby Jesus in our homes and churches and in midst of festivities we should not forget the context in which Jesus was born and his vulnerability as a child. Distribution of gifts and charity to the vulnerable during Christmas is not enough. Advent  is also a time for advocacy and action to promote ‘Life in its Fullness’ and ‘Right to Life and Dignity’ of the  vulnerable. Children are most vulnerable in Indian society as one out of two children gets sexually abused. Churches should not only  interrogate how safe our homes, churches, schools and even Sunday Schools are, but also evolve and  initiate innovative mission paradigms and advocacy methods to end  child abuse and sexual violence on children.”

Advocacy materials such as ‘End Child Abuse wrist bands’ can be introduced by churches

 Biswas further states  that different countries observe National Child Abuse Prevention  Month at different times of the year. For example,  USA observes it in the  month of April. 19 November is commemorated as  ‘World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse’ and  many countries mark the November month  as advocacy  month to end child abuse . Church lectionaries can also can include ‘World Day of Prevention of Child Abuse’.  Biswas further  proposes, “Is it possible for churches this advent season to spread the ‘Blue-ing the Churches  Message‘? The colour blue  symbolically is used for  advocacy  globally  to end child abuse. NCCI invites   Indian churches  to initiate and observe  ‘Blue Sunday’ to create awareness  to end child abuse and promote Child  Rights.  Such initiatives will enable  and empower congregations and communities to   commit to give every child a chance to succeed and to ensure  that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect.

Revd Eben Jason from Church of South India from Tuticorin Diocese former ‘World Day of Prayer Convener’ of the erstwhile ‘All India Council of Christian Women’ (now renamed as Women Concerns Ministry of NCCI) has dedicated her life to end female infanticide. Advent is a special time for her to accelerate her advocacy among congregations and villages to end  female  infanticide.

According to Jason ” In many parts of India  there is a violent culture of killing  new born baby girls. Such culture is  more  visible  in Haryana, Punjab and some southern states of India.” She further states “Grandmothers, and family members themselves suffocate and kill new born girl children by pouring rice husk in their nose as girl children are regarded as burden. I have witnessed the trauma of mothers.” The ‘Green Revolution’ in Punjab and Haryana, which was  promoted by Transnational Companies replacing organic farming with mechanized farming and which displaced women as farmers, further  increased  the phenomenon of considering girls as a burden and increased female infanticide .

The ‘Sex Ratio’ in 2017 is 945 (Girls):1000 (boys). Female foeticide and infanticide is still rampant across the country, despite strict bans on determination of the sex of a child during pregnancy. Ratio of young women in India will drastically decrease by 2031, says a recent government study. (Source:www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/04/20/). This will further increase trafficking of girls and women.

Jason states as I carry the Bible in my hand and visit villages and homes and  I counsel and educate mothers, grandmothers and  men folk and village head, I tell them that a girl  child is also a precious  gift of God, and female infanticide is nothing but ‘Murder,’ a heinous  crime.” She further states that during Jesus’ birth, Herod killed many baby boys and today in India we kill baby girls.  She quotes the Biblical text:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)

Jason states  “Christ has come to give us new life. Christmas is the time for us to wipe away tears and bring smiles  to many  Rachels in our society today. Let us together engage in ‘Blue-ing’ our churches and  communities. I invite all of you to pledge during this Christmas -:

Because our Children both Male and Female are Precious in God’s Eyes , We will  Not Remain Silent about Violence on Children and Child Sexual Abuse “

 Click on the Link NCPRC Request Letter

16 Days Activism Campaign @ NCCI

Reported by Moumita Biswas, Executive Secretary- Women Concerns Ministry , National Council of Churches in In

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