We are pleased to announce the online global symposium TRANSFORMING EDUCATION: Ethics Education for Learning to Live Together, which will take place on 22-23 November 2021. We invite educators, policymakers, faith-based and civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to join us to reflect, collaborate and prompt action to transform education together!

From 16th – 20th November 2020, the GHFP joined children, young people and religious leaders from more than 53 countries, and representatives of the United Nations, international, national and grassroots organisations, and diverse experts, for the online Global Week of Faith in Action for Children. This event was organised by Arigatou International and partners.

In response to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children around the world, the participants have issued the following Statement, outlining core concerns and commitments to joint action:

Statement on Faith in Action for Children

Taking Action Together for Children in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Greatly concerned by the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children around the world, we, the participants of the Global Week of Faith in Action for Children, have issued this Statement.

We are children, young people and religious leaders from more than 53 countries, who, together with representatives of the United Nations, international, national and grassroots organizations, and diverse experts, gathered November 16-20, 2020 for the online Global Week of Faith in Action for Children organized by Arigatou International and partners.

Children and the COVID-19 pandemic

Children of all ages have been among the most vulnerable to the damage and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the challenges that prevent children, especially those most vulnerable, from enjoying their rights. Children themselves tell us – and research confirms – that they are suffering grievously from the loss of family members to the pandemic, a serious disruption of school life, an alarming increase in various forms of violence against them, a noticeable deepening  of  poverty, the devastating  impact the pandemic is having on the adults in their lives, as well as the divisive and, at times, competing narratives and misleading information about how to stay safe during the pandemic.

Children who were already disadvantaged by poverty and more vulnerable are being affected even more gravely, and their very development and even survival are threatened. Many experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic will have a variety of long-term impacts with lasting negative consequences for their mental health, socio-emotional growth, and spiritual well-being. In particular, we are concerned that the spiritual well-being of children is not often considered in education, psycho-social support or social protection programs.

Children are the priceless treasure of humanity and the inheritors of the earth. The potentially irreversible damage to children’s lives we are witnessing is not only unacceptable in and of itself; it also puts the future of humanity at greater risk. Yet, sadly, children continue to remain largely invisible and absent in the global community’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We also wholeheartedly affirm that children have a unique and essential role to play, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, in building a  better  world – a world where the human dignity of each and every person is recognized and respected. To this end, it is imperative that we all work together in solidarity to transform the divisions, inequities and injustices in all of our societies.

Children’s Proposals

We, the children and young people who participated in this Global Week, have shared our ideas and insights, helping to shape this Statement. The following summarizes many of our proposals:

  • Listen with an open heart to us, talk with, support and motivate us in these challenging times.
  • Create ways to continue to stay in contact with us despite the disruptions, be creative to ensure that none of us feels isolated or unsupported, even if we cannot connect using technology.
  • Help us to find coping mechanisms, and find ways to foster our imagination and creativity even during the lockdown.
  • Since many of our brothers and sisters have no access to daily nutritious meals, support the most vulnerable families, including with financial support and nutrition.
  • Support parents and caregivers so they can cope with the “new normal,” so they can better help us. We know that parents want to support us, but sometimes they do not know how.
  • Make more opportunities for dialogue with parents, but also within faith communities and schools. As children, we look up to adults and would like to share our feelings, fears and dreams with them, but there is a need to improve communication .
  • Let us explore the world peacefully because we are born to explore. While exploring the world we children can know what is wrong and what is right.
  • Provide access to education to all children, without discrimination of race or ethnicity.
  • Education must teach us to be good people and teach us about faith.
  • Provide support to children victims of violence.
  • Offer support for distance learning, particularly for those who do not have computers or internet at home.

Joint Commitment to Action

Informed by the children’s proposals and our extensive dialogue over the past five days of the Global Week, we share a compelling determination to  rise to  the  challenge of our times – to meet the ethical obligation to embrace solidarity, work together as one, and honor our innate interdependence and interconnectedness as human beings in all that we do. Toward this end, we, children, young people and religious leaders from more than 53 countries, who, together with representatives of the  United Nations, international, national and grassroots organizations, and diverse experts, have agreed upon a set of collective actions.

We pledge to redefine the term, “new normal.” We will not yield to a pandemic-driven existence of isolation, deprivation, and disease. Instead, we will seize the opportunity provided by this crisis to promote the fundamental changes needed to ensure that each and every child – no matter their socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, religious background, or other factor – can grow and fully develop by helping to shape a more compassionate, just and sustainable world.

We collectively commit to the following actions:
  1. Fulfill the Panama Commitments on Ending Violence Against Ch11dren, which consist of a set of 10 promises made by diverse religious leaders, children and young people, and representatives of civil society and faith-based organizations, at the Fifth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) held in Panama City in 2017.
  2. Jointly implement evidence-based strategies to address the multidimensional impact of COVID-19 on children, thereby contributing to economic strengthening, supporting parents and caregivers, challenging harmful norms condoning violence against children and strengthening those that affirm children’s dignity and advance child sensitive social protection .
  3. Promote child participation in all decisions that impact children and work hand in hand with them to create spaces and opportunities for joint solutions for the issues that affect them, focusing on areas of education including nurturing spirituality, prevention of violence against children and ending child poverty.
  4. Be accountable to children in the implementation of our joint actions.
  5. Listen to the advice of scientific and health experts to ensure that we share accurate health information on how to keep people safe, address religious and faith-related concerns, and promote the safety and protection of children and our communities.
  6. Strengthen collaboration and coalition-building at the local level among religious communities and among FBOs, CSOs, multilateral organizations and grassroots and religious communities.
Endorsed by:
  • Arigatou International
  • Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children
  • Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace
  • International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID)
  • International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
  • Islamic Relief Worldwide
  • Norwegian Church Aid
  • Parliament of World’s Religions
  • Pastoral da Crianca
  • Religions for Peace
  • Scholas Occurrentes
  • Shanti Ashram
  • UNICEF
  • World Council of Churches
  • World Vision International
Joined by: 
  • Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children (SRSGNAC)
  • Joint Learning Initiative On Faith And Local Communities (JU)
  • World Bank Group

The G20 2020 theme, Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All, is supported by a global consensus that inclusive education should be a core policy priority.

The GHFP team have been working in collaboration with the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Working Group, to develop a policy brief that brings to the fore the urgent need for G20 leaders to review national policies to enhance the quality and equality of education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed ever-widening gaps, with disadvantaged populations finding themselves further marginalised. Inclusive education can contribute to cohesive and thriving societies characterised by the wellbeing of all, in particular supporting the most vulnerable children and young people. 

Inclusive education offers paths to enhancing students’ motivation for participation and learning, raising self- and other-awareness, reducing biases, enriching relationships, increasing capabilities in team work, collaboration and conflict transformation, enabling a greater sense of belonging and community, reducing bullying and violence, and most importantly, improving wellbeing and opportunities for all. Without inclusive and caring approaches, vulnerable children and young people are not only discriminated against within the current systems, they are also excluded from broader opportunities for learning and wellbeing

Globally, during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, faith-inspired initiatives have played  distinctive roles in advancing a values-based discourse and promoting spiritually meaningful approaches to respecting all children’s dignity and meeting their diverse needs. Faith-inspired educational initiatives are working in many settings to empower local communities to close the gaps resulted from school closures, lack of public services, and isolation. They also provide practical support to address the acute social, emotional and spiritual needs of children during this time. By engaging with religious leaders and faith/interfaith actors, G20 leaders, national governments, and their international partners can strengthen the 2020 G20’s vision of “global cooperation to forge mutually beneficial solutions, face challenges, and create opportunities for all”.     

The G20i Education Working Group’s Policy Brief highlights an ongoing need exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes an urgent call for G20 governments to forge cross-boundary partnerships to jointly advance an agenda of inclusive education. It outlines the specific challenges confronting the global community at this time and draws on relevant literature, insights from a recent survey of faith-inspired organisations’ conceptions and approaches to inclusive and caring education, and proposals from a wider interdisciplinary consultation, to provide specific and implementable policy recommendations for the G20 leaders to consider at the G20 Summit in Riyadh in November 2020. 

The key recommendations of the policy brief are:

1. Advancing the Wellbeing of Every Child as the Core Aim of Education 

  • Promoting wellbeing of all students in the learning community
  • Introducing inclusive curricula
  • Prioritising collaborative and co-creative learning in the classroom  

2. Ensuring Participation of All in Inclusive Learning Environments 

  • Engaging [all] young people and empowering student voice and agency 
  • Forming partnerships among schools, families and faith communities to support all children 
  • Strengthening links between schools, faith communities, and wider society 

3. Aligning Teachers’ Professional Development with a Wellbeing and Inclusion Focus

  • Reviewing national capability frameworks for teachers’ professional development
  • Enhancing teachers’ awareness, sensitivity, and appreciation of diversity and inclusion 
  • Enabling teachers to facilitate transformative, collaborative and dialogue-based learning  

As part of the preparation for the 2020 G20 Summit, the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Task Force, sponsored by the GHFP Research Institute, carried out a survey with over 50 interfaith-inspired organisations, conducted a literature review, and explored case studies with a view to understand better how these organisations and educators conceptualise inclusive education.

The result was an extremely rich vista in terms of how we might understand inclusive education, including:

  1. recognising and respecting the intrinsic worth of all children
  2. being available and accessible to learners of all backgrounds, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, caste, religion, ability, sexual orientation, economic status, language, or beliefs
  3. focusing on the whole child, and nurturing their holistic well-being, including the physical, social-emotional, intellectual, moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of development
  4. honouring students’ diversity, valuing their difference, and being responsive to their evolving needs in all aspects of learning, development and wellbeing
  5. creating safe and caring learning spaces and promoting cohesive learning communities
  6. cultivating students’ agency, and attending and responding to students’ voice respectfully, appreciating what everyone brings to the educational setting, and advocating solidarity
  7. empowering all learners to participate transformative collective actions in the community and beyond
  8. supporting all children to thrive in the face of increasing uncertainty

Such understandings have provided the basis for G20 Interfaith Forum Education Policy Recommendations aimed at meeting the challenges of social cohesion and collective well-being and flourishing during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As part of the G20 Interfaith Forum’s Education Task Force, the GHFP has launched a research into Inclusive and Caring Education from a Faith Perspective. The research consists in two parts: (1) a literature review to understand better how religion/faith/spirituality tends to define inclusive and caring education; (2) a questionnaire survey to seek examples and case studies of faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education.

For further information, please read G20-Interfaith-Forum_Edu-Task-Force.

We welcome all faith-inspired educational projects and programmes that have a focus on inclusion and diversity to share their practice HERE.