CAIRO: Egypt’s Islamic Sunni Institute of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), signed Monday a declaration statement per which NGOs and government institutions should consider the religious point of view when combating child abuse. Both the Islamic Sunni Institution and the Coptic Orthodox Church condemn all forms of child abuse.
The ceremony was attended by al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb and Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Athens Holy See of Saint Mark, the International Cooperation Minister Ghada Wali and the Minister of Endowment Mokhtar Gomaa.
Both religious institutions conducted three studies tackling the protection of children from violent and harmful practices.
The studies were carried out as part of an initiative between the International Islamic Center of Population Studies and Research (IICPSR) and the church over the past three days.
The studies concluded that there are 11 forms of violence and harmful practices against the children in Egypt and the world. The forms include forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), discrimination among children, child labor, sexual abuse of children, absence of family care and homelessness, domestic violence against children, violence in schools and education institutions, children of armed conflicts, trafficking of children, violence against children on television and the Internet.
The publications were issued to address religious scholars, imams, priests and those who are responsible for children care and protection.
The initiative highlights the religious inter-dialogues which provide a platform for combating violence against children, said Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Egypt. He added that much effort is needed to ensure the rights of the child are protected.
“Protection and care of children are at the top of the government’s priorities,” said Wali in her speech at the conference. She added that the religious discourses call for child protection will have positive impact due to the important role religion has in Egypt.
She praised the cooperation between the government and UNICEF saying that there are 1400 nurseries nationwide working with UNICEF
The initiative’s publications will be discussed in media campaigns to raise awareness nationwide. Around 850 imams and priests will be trained to address violence against children nationwide, said Gamal Abu El Serour, the IICPSR director.
In his speech, Pope Tawadros called for an initiative titled “Hug and Love” to highlight family harmony.
“Fulfilling children’s rights is one of the key pillars of Islamic Law. This is a matter of safeguarding religion, the soul, the mind, our offspring and prosperity. Children’s rights exist for the protection of our offspring,” said Sheikh al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb.
“This joint initiative comes at a critical time for the region where children are experiencing unprecedented levels of violence,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Peter Salama.