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Manifesto in defence of the Rights of Children

02/12/2009: Spain

“This morning, at the beginning of our XXI General Chapter, I invite you to make your own the eyes of poor children”. These words were pronounced in the Chapter hall by Brother Sean Sammon, at the time still Superior General. It was a message for all the Marists in the world, Brothers and lay people. Today, 20 November 2009, celebrating the Convention of Children’s Rights, we are called, in a very special way, to see the world through a poor child’s eyes and discover, through his/her gaze, the grandeur of life, the goodness, the love, the dreams of growing and journeying, of living a happy childhood.

But the eyes of children, particularly of the poor, are also witnesses of egoism and evil, of abuse and exploitation, of the violation of people’s rights and, and more concretely, of children’s rights. For this reason, the Marists of Catalonia, children and young people, on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on Children’s Rights, want to display their concrete commitment to work for justice and the defence of the Rights of Children.

Brother Emili Turú, new Superior General, in his closing address of the XXI General Chapter, expressed his desire for the Marists to “become experts in the defence of the rights of children and young people. God grant that in eight years, when we look back, we will be able to say that the Institute has taken very significant steps in this direction”. This is the challenge we want to take up.

Today in an institutional act, some children are going to read a manifesto, fruit of the reflection and commitment of students and teachers in the schools and social works. The voices of Marist children unite with the voices of the children and young people of the world. So we offer the manifesto so that Marists may show their willingness to unite with us in the wish to build a more just and human world for children.

MANIFESTO IN DEFENCE OF THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

“On 20th November 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To mark the twentieth anniversary of this Convention, the children and young people of the Marist Educational Works of Catalonia have worked on the rights and obligations of children. We have done this in our educational centres, with our companions of class, with the teachers and educators. And now, in each place, there will be a special celebration and a remembrance, because, twenty years on, although much has been done, there are still millions of children who are unable to fully enjoy their rights, and are even exposed to new violations of those rights.

In representation of our companions, we have come together not only to celebrate the anniversary of the Convention, but also to raise our voices, because every child in the world has a voice, a face, a name, so that all can live and grow with dignity.
Although all children have the same rights, we are conscious that many throughout the world are vulnerable and that governments and society do not have the powers necessary to change this situation.
It is good fortune to have a family that loves us, to receive an education, to be surrounded by people we can trust and by friends who support us, to have medical care, food and a home. Many other children cannot say the same. For that reason, we want to say thank you to all who are concerned for us and who help us so that the rights of children are respected.
Still, much remains to be done and we ask for the commitment of the whole society. For this reason, we declare as follows:

• We believe that we have a right to a free education. All children have to read and write and ought to have a dignified future with equality of opportunity. There are many children who work and are exploited instead of going to school.

• We believe that we have a right to be treated equally. Everyone should be respected, whatever the origin, sex, language, religion, economic status, physical or mental condition.

• We believe that we have a right to receive love and understanding and to return it.

• We believe that we have a right to protect ourselves against all types of bad treatment. We have a right to life and development.

• We believe that we have a right to have food and clothing, so that we do not suffer malnutrition or become ill. We have a right to good hygiene and good health.

• We believe that we have a right to choose, to express ourselves and to be listened to without measures being taken against us.

• We believe that we have a right to privacy, for ourselves and for our family, to live on the border of media and economic interests.

• We believe that, in circumstances harmful to our family situation, we have a right to have help, protection and assistance, and, if the case requires, a legal counsel to accompany us in our needs.

• We believe that no child should be exploited.

• We believe that we have a right to live and enjoy our childhood. We have a right not to be robbed of our childhood.

We wish to go beyond our immediate environment and show in a special way our firm rejection of all the situations in which millions of children live and which wound their condition as human beings and children. We reject especially war and its aftermath, labour and sexual exploitation, the marginalisation of the physically or mentally handicapped, the traffic in children and their deaths in networks of prostitution, mutilation and the traffic of organs, slavery. We do not accept that children be trained in war and killing, or that they be turned into child soldiers. We do not accept that children be incited to hatred and violence. We unite ourselves to all the anonymous children who have passed through this world without having received love or protection.
With this manifesto, we wish to transmit a breath of hope to all those children whose rights or persons are not respected. We believe that it is very important that these are guaranteed and, for that reason, we ask that all countries commit themselves to accepting and implementing the rights of children. That families, educational centres, legislators, institutions and society generally recognize that children are persons with rights and duties, which we ought to respect and guard and that we have a right to be children and to act accordingly.
We strive to respect and help the others, to solve conflicts using dialogue, to take care of nature, to value freedom, not to waste food, to make those at our side happy.
Finally, we commit ourselves to building a better world for all.
A good present for children and a good future for society.

________________
Children and young people of the Marist Educational Works.
Barcelona, 20 November 2009.

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