During the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children 2021 on 19th November 2021 held in Dubai, 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 of discussion, which was within the overarching theme of the event (Wear My Shoes Campaign), sought to analyze the challenges children and young people undergo, especially during COVID-19 period.
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.
It was evident that prioritizing children’s social, emotional and spiritual well-being in times of crisis was key in promoting children’s wellbeing, in particular, how the world can adapt sustainable solutions to address the mental health of children and young people as the world campaigns for children to return to school.
At the onset, Dr. Ali noted that Arigatou International and its initiatives believes that all children are equal and should have equal rights including access to basic needs, quality education, healthcare among other rights. “It is because of these rights that Prayer and Action for Children hosted a meeting not only to commemorate the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children but also to discuss on the welfare of children. We owe children that much,” he stated.
During the discussion, it was noted that the pandemic immobilized the operations of schools and learning institutions which made students loose significantly in their studies and interaction with friends. The pandemic also opened opportunities for children to be exposed to different forms of violence including recruitment to gang groups, and domestic, sexual, emotional and physical violence.
In her presentation, Dr. Ahmad talked about mental health holistically as an increasing problem that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. She underscored that the world needs to acknowledge that mental health is a reality and everyone has a role in addressing it extensively. She added that it is because of this negligence that the youth are resorting to drugs and substance abuse or joining violent groups because there is no one to listen to the them.
Both Dr. Esquivel and Rabbi Potasnik attributed to the purity of children noting that it is the role of adults to make sure that every child is treated with dignity and protected from any form of exploitation or violence. “What we expose children to today will determine the adults and leaders we produce tomorrow. Let’s act responsibly,” noted Rabbi Potasnik.
In her presentation, Dr. Abdullah noted that the world needs to go back to the teachings and practices of religious scriptures in its entirety. She noted that religion in its purest form, advocates for the protection and nurturing of children and their wellbeing. She added that the rights of a child begin from as early as in the womb and are enshrined in every faith and spiritual tradition across the world. “It is up to us to conform to these already existing teachings,” she said.
Concluding the discussion, Dr. Ali noted that every child has the right to shine and thrive in life and this can only be achieved if their growth is nurtured. He added that aside from negative aspects of the pandemic, the world had witnessed positive moments worth noting including the fact that the pandemic had promoted relations between siblings, parents and their children, and promoted coexistence within the community. He also noted the positive progress made in the development of vaccines against the virus. He added that working remotely enabled the world to advance in online technology. As he celebrated these milestones, he acknowledged that there was still a long way to go before we could create a better world for children.