In recent days an apprehensive world has been coming to terms with an unprecedented global pandemic. Many souls are perplexed and dismayed, unsure of what will be. Yet seldom has it been more evident that society’s collective strength is dependent on the unity it can manifest in action, from the international stage to the grassroots.
The problems before us are immense and no one country, religion, or agency can address them alone. People of faith have to work together in creative ways—while following the advice of capable public health authorities—with other faith communities, corporations, law enforcement officials, governments, and other relevant actors, including youth and parents, in vigilantly safeguarding the interests of children. For children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, and in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.
The present times pose particular challenges for children around the world. With calls for social distancing and staying indoors, access to education becomes limited, as does the ability to engage in meaningful face to face interactions. Children can be surrounded by adults struggling to balance home life with precarious employment opportunities, whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. Lost income could result in food insecurity. And with greater tensions in the household, many children are increasingly exposed to violence. All of this is deplorable, notwithstanding the emotional effects of losing loved ones and seeing family members struggle to respond to the pandemic.
Faith communities have a particularly important contribution to make during these times to protect humanity’s most vulnerable and in contributing to their spiritual, social, and mental health. They have a critical role in fostering a proper attitude towards children and a general interest in their welfare. They can help local communities raise consciousness of this vital responsibility and work with governmental agencies to establish appropriate policies and needed services.
The world seems all the more perilous for children during this time of crisis, and faith communities can also support children by ensuring that their education is not halted. By encouraging approaches to education that give due attention to both intellectual and moral development, hope can be fostered and children assisted to navigate such a challenging time. In a world laden with uncertainty, caregivers are also being challenged to provide support in ways that might be new or unfamiliar to them. Faith communities can be in a position to explore with caregivers ways in which protection, emotional support, and comfort can be provided to children during such unprecedented times. Through their love and example of service to those who need support, they can impart a sense of safety and assurance that humanity will pass through this ordeal.
As we collectively work together through these difficult times, may our energies be bent on securing the welfare of our most precious and in fostering hope and strength of spirit.
By Mrs. Bani Dugal
Principal Representative, Bahá’í International Community