On the 19th of November 2021, GNRC members in the Middle East and the North Africa (MENA) region were invited by Prayer and Action for Children to the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children celebrations in Dubai, UAE. The event, which was inaugurated by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence in UAE, was attended by about a hundred participants from the UAE government, international and local civil society organizations, interfaith organizations, and private institutions. The event was also attended by three Arigatou International Directors: Ms. Rebeca Rios Kohn, Director of Prayer and Action for Children; Rev. Fred Nyabera, Director of End Child Poverty and Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General of the GNRC and Director of Arigatou International – Nairobi. Faith leaders from all the major faiths and spiritual traditions across the world joined the event to offer their prayers during the interfaith service.
During the global hybrid (physical and virtual) ceremony, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, welcomed participants to the prayer and action ceremony and expressed his joy for having UAE host such a meeting through the Interfaith Alliance for Safe Communities. He noted that the government of UAE is keen to promote interfaith coexistence among the diverse cultures in UAE. Sheikh Nahyan pointed to the importance of protecting the wellbeing of children through ethical and religious disciplines. He added that the UAE strongly believed in religious diversity and affirmed its commitment to respecting human rights and promoting peace and valuing the other.
In his video message, the President of Arigatou International, and Convenor of the GNRC, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, urged all people of good will, faith leaders, and faith communities to ensure all children return back to school even as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic that has stretched the mental, social, and economic might of human beings. He called for urgent action by leaders worldwide to prioritize children’s mental health, emotional, and spiritual well-being. He noted that all children have a right to identity, education, health, protection and participation including those from underprivileged communities.
Attending the meeting virtually was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, who encouraged members to invest in children from their earliest years and ensuring that we build a just, inclusive and safe society for them. She added that in order to build back better we ought to reach to all children especially those in vulnerable communities and integrate services for children, such as education and health.
In his speech the member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Dr. Benyam Mezmur, pointed to some of the problems in the developing world that have restricted children’s access to education including access to basic needs, lack of peace, and lack of quality healthcare and education. He implored to humanity to reach furthest to the underprivileged and vulnerable in the communities especially in the developing countries.
During the ceremony, the GNRC Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, was invited to moderate a dialogue session on, “Prioritizing children’s social, emotional, and spiritual well-being in times of crisis.” The topic sought to analyze the challenges children and young people undergo, especially during the pandemic. Participating in the panel discussion was Ms. Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; Dr. Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Peace Nobel Laureate; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, JD. Vice Chair, The International Conference of Rabbis and Executive Vice President, The New York Board of Rabbis; Dr. Husna Ahmad, Secretary-General, World Muslim Leadership Forum; and Dr. Reham Abdullah Salamah, Al- Azhar University.
The World Day event culminated in the Wear My Shoes campaign award that aimed at highlighting grassroots efforts and actions to mitigate the global learning crisis. GNRC members in Ecuador, Cuba, Mexico, Myanmar and Serbia were awarded for their creative submissions.