By Emma Parr, Religious Education and Safe Church Consultant NSW/ACT Synod
The Christian Conference of Asia gathered a consultation group of 60 practitioners working with children and in child safety from member churches and ecumenical organisations on 17-19 September 2018, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
I contributed on behalf of the Uniting Church, as a partner church and as one which has already been on a journey of raising awareness of child safety for many years.
The CCA observed a great need to sensitise the Asian Churches to be aware of the rights and dignity of Children, to address some specific concerns and issues, and to provide a platform for networking Asian Churches and ecumenical organisations to uphold the rights and dignity of all children.
Thematic addresses introduced a number of specific issues, to which the gathered practitioners then brought their experience into conversation with other churches and organisations.
These issues included: Children in the digitalised world, child labour and trafficking, early childhood care, ending violence against children, and the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Further workshopping sessions helped identify and link our strategies for advocacy and networking for resource sharing around upholding children’s rights and dignity.
One of the initial outworkings of this consultation is a communique to the member churches of the Christian Conference of Asia calling them to raise awareness and to action.
Further collaborative work is the next step in consultation with practitioners and member churches to provide awareness raising and advocacy tools as part of changing culture across the churches to thinking more about the inherent dignity and rights of all children.
The opportunity allowed me to be in dialogue with other ministry agents passionately advocating for children in their own churches and communities.
It was so worthwhile to learn from our partner churches and contribute to ecumenical conversation about how churches advocate for child rights and dignity, the most basic level of child safety.
I was able to share ideas from my experience and also resources that could be adapted for other churches.
One of the highlights for me was to hear about the good work already happening in places like Thailand teaching protective behaviours to children, so they are aware of their own rights and self-protection strategies.
The spirit of collaboration was very encouraging and I hope we can continue to work ecumenically in these areas so that the best possible care, education, and opportunities to thrive are afforded to all children.