The Asian Launch event of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children was held on Saturday 14th November 2009 in Nava Rangahala, Colombo with the participation of over 600 children from all corners of the island together with representatives from India, Nepal and Maldives.
The Chief Guest of the occasion Mr. Daniel Toole, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia was warmly welcomed by the children. Distinguished guests included Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, the founder-president of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Mr. Philippe Dumelle, UNICEF’s Country Representative for Sri Lanka, Mr. Jagath Wellawatte, Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority.
Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, the Executive Director of Sarvodaya in his capacity as the South Asian Regional Coordinator for the Global Network of Religions for Children ( GNRC) introduced the ‘World Day of Prayer and Action for Children’ saying “ The 20th of November is a very special day for Children. It was 20 years ago that the United Nations adopted the ‘Convention on Rights of the Child’. We all care for children and we are an organizations working for and with children with a spiritual philosophy. We got together to declare a special day that we can devote for children using spiritual and religious values. Today we are launching the ‘World Day of Prayer and Action for Children’ for the Asian region and similar events will be launched in South America, Africa, Middle East, Japan and many other countries.”
A special video message from Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, the leader of the Arigatou Foundation of Japan offered his blessings to the children and the proceedings of the day. “It is my heartfelt prayer that, on this day, every child could joyously celebrate his or her own infinite spiritual potential — the potential to play, laugh, love, meditate and pray, the potential to change the world.” said Rev. Miyamoto in his message.
During the key note speech Mr. Daniel Toole brought attention on the plight of the children in the region. “South Asia has nearly 600 million children, the largest number of people under the age of 18 of any region of the world. They make up around one-third of our population; and yet they are, of course, 100% of our future. But, more than half of these children live in poverty, yes more than half, and 42 million do not go to school. Combined, these deprivations compromise their future – and ours.” said Mr. Toole.
“Each of us here has a key role to play to make the required changes and build on the Convention on Rights of the Child. This is our individual and collective responsibility. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, children bring light to our world, and in turn we must all do more to stop the shadows that fall on their futures. This must be the focus of our prayers and of our concerted action.” He further stated.
The event was made colorful by performances from children that highlighted how good religious virtues will help the positive development of children.
A group of children from the Shanthi Asharm, India highlighted challenges that children face in society through dance and drama. The performance by the children of special from the Sunera Foundation brought smiles to the audience and at the same time conveyed a strong message about every child’s right to play and participate in society.
The Islamic drama performed by a group of children from Kalmunai highlighted teachings from the Holy Kuran about the safeguarding of children and their well being. The children performance conveyed to the audience how applying good religious virtues children can find success in their lives.
A group of children from Moratuwa lit up the stage dressed as Angels performing to the song ‘Namo Mariyani’ with a message that each child is special and that all god’s children with goodness in their hearts are looked after by Angels.
The Buddhist Performance by Children from the Suwasetha Centre in Akuressa was based on two stories from the time of Lord Buddha that shows us the compassion and care that religious leaders must give to children.
The last of the children’s performances was by a dance troupe of Mrs. Rajini Selvanayagam and brought to stage a message of religious harmony and good will.
During the event a special moment of prayer and blessing for children was led by religious leaders from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and the Baha’i faith.
The event culminated with a group meditation session led by Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne invoking a wish for the betterment of children world wide. It was a highly powerful moment with all in the audience holding a lamp in their hands as they unleashed a powerful spiritual force for the well being and protection of children.
The launch event will be followed up with a week of action across the region, leading up to the ‘World Day of Prayer and Action for Children on the 20th of November, organized by the members and partners of Global Network of Religions for Children.