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Faith and children’s rights: A multi-religious study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Written by Akila Aggoune, Savitri Goonesekere, Janet Nelson, Rebeca Rios-Kohn (lead writer and study coordinator), and Jonathan Todres.



On November 20, 2019, the international community will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by the United Nations General Assembly. The CRC has been ratified by 196 States, making it the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history. Over the past 30 years, the CRC has transformed the way the world thinks about children. It has helped change for the better how children are treated in national constitutions, national and local laws, as well as in national plans and programs. It has spurred progress in the prevention of diseases, thus saving the lives of children in many countries, and has produced important commitments to universal education and to eliminating the worst forms of child labor, ending corporal punishment and much more.

For the CRC’s 30th anniversary, Arigatou International initiated this multi-religious global Study on the CRC, focusing particularly on the role of religious leaders and religious communities in promoting children’s rights and well-being and in preventing violence against children. This Study was carried out in collaboration with the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, UNICEF, and the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), with the participation and support of World Vision and KAICIID.

Study Scope and Contributors

The Study was shaped by a series of global and regional multi-religious roundtables and other consultations held with diverse religious leaders, child-rights advocates and other experts, as well as written contributions from scholars of religion and law. Focus groups with children were also held in seven countries (in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia) in order to include their views and recommendations.

The Study provides for the first time perspectives from a diverse range of religious and faith traditions, drawing primarily on seven religions— the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and the Sikh Faith. In total, these traditions have more than 5.5 billion adherents around the globe.

Intended Readership

This Study is primarily written for religious leaders, religious communities and child-focused faith-based organizations. It is expected also to be a guiding reference for child-rights advocates, policymakers, academics, child-focused organizations, as well as children’s and youth groups.


The Study consists of six chapters and a set of Annexes which are briefly outlined here.

Chapter 1. The World’s Religions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child

This chapter highlights the essential role that religious leaders and religious groups have played, and continue to play, in advancing the rights of children, from the initial drafting of the CRC through its adoption, ratification and continuing implementation. It presents important achievements as a result of the CRC, as well as the significant commitments made at key global gatherings of religious leaders over the last three decades. It discusses why religious leaders who already embrace the moral responsibility to safeguard children can be ideal advocates of children’s rights. It also suggests how, by using their voice and vast networks, religious leaders and faith groups can be highly effective as change agents who foster dialogue, influence attitudes and behaviors, and inspire action.

Chapter 2. Overview of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

This chapter provides a brief overview of the CRC as a human rights instrument and its three Optional Protocols and is written to be accessible to religious communities as well as a broader audience.

Chapter 3. Commonalities Between Religious Values and Principles of the CRC

This chapter discusses the ways in which the scriptures and beliefs of the major religions express value for the sanctity of life and the dignity of every child. It presents the striking commonalities found among the values of the seven religions studied and shows how those common values are also embedded in the CRC’s principles and standards. It presents compelling reasons for using the CRC as a guiding reference in any action by religious groups that concern the care and protection of children. The important role that both the CRC and the religions ascribe to the family as the fundamental setting and support for the growth and well-being of children is also addressed. The spiritual development of the child, which is explicitly recognized in the CRC (Article 27 and Article 17), is also discussed, informed by perspectives offered during the consultations with religious leaders and scholars of religion and law. The findings suggest that religious leaders and faith groups could build upon these important provisions and encourage children to appreciate the ethical values found in the CRC.

Chapter 4. Religious Leaders and Communities Working to Protect Children from Violence

This chapter presents examples selected from the many distinctive contributions that religious communities have made to the improvement of children’s lives and thus, to the advancement of children’s rights around the world. It features a number of practices from diverse regions of the world and religious communities, along with lessons learned from each. Many of these important achievements, in particular those aimed at ending violence against children, are not well known and are deserving of wider attention.

Chapter 5. Frequently Asked Questions about the CRC

Based on questions raised during the consultations with religious leaders, theologians and the focus groups with children, this chapter provides some answers to frequently asked questions about the CRC. It addresses some common misunderstandings and attempts to respond to issues that some religious groups have raised regarding the treaty. Also included are “key messages” that may be useful for the reader in communicating the meaning of the CRC with various audiences.

Chapter 6. Recommendations for Action

Based on the findings of this Study, this chapter lists key recommendations for action for each of the stakeholder groups addressed by the Study—religious leaders, child-rights advocates, governments, children and youth, and parents and caregivers.