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Archbishop of Canterbury calls attention to World Day of Prayer and Action for Children

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Nov. 18 that faith communities ought to unite around the upcoming World Day of Prayer and Action for Children "for the protection and flourishing of our children."

The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children initiative is a global effort to mobilize secular and faith-based organizations to work together for the well-being of children and highlight the important role religious communities can play in promoting child rights, according to a news release about Williams' statement. The day of prayer and action is held every year near Nov. 20 to coincide with Universal Children's Day and the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The archbishop's statement follows:

"This Sunday, 20 November 2011, is the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. This day has been promoted by UNICEF, Religions for Peace, Save the Children and other agencies to focus the world's attention on the well-being of our children. In every faith community, our children are the treasure that we value beyond price. A child born into health and safety is a sign of hope in our common life. In children we recognize the preciousness and dignity of the human being as well as a vulnerability which calls for our care and protection.

"The theme for this year is "stop violence against children". Violence against children will take many forms in different contexts – all demanding our action and prayer. After visiting Eastern Congo earlier this year, I particularly hold in my prayers those children who are affected by armed conflict. I met children who had suffered unimaginable horror, attacked, abducted, forced into brutalizing ways of life – and yet, amidst the anguish, I also encountered precious flames of hope, where local churches and communities strove to protect and restore the lives of their children. I had the privilege of meeting a group of young people who are now involved in a peace initiative. They had been taken into the militia as children and forced to perpetrate terrible acts, and yet the church continued to reach out to them and call them back. Many said to me: "The church never gave up on us." I know that UNICEF has supported faith communities doing similar work to rehabilitate child soldiers in other countries.

"In Eastern Congo I also witnessed the work of faith communities helping children who had been subjected to sexual violence. I heard of churches and their communities which had repeatedly rebuilt their schools, destroyed in conflict. They said that their children and their children's future were far too precious not to act, and act again.

"I urge us all, in churches and other faith communities all around the world, to unite in this World Day of Prayer and Action for the protection and flourishing of our children."

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