Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thousands gather for the ‘Day of Prayer and Action for Children’ in Cambodia

By Iman Morooka

Representatives from the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths all attended the Day of Prayer and Action for Children
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 15 December 2015 – Over 4,400 people gathered together yesterday in celebration of the Day of Prayer and Action for Children. The participants included religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths, government officials, NGO members, as well as children and youth.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Samdech Hun Sen, opened the meeting which was organized by the Ministry of Cult and Religion, in collaboration with UNICEF, World Vision, Muslim Aid, Danmission and ChildFund. In his remarks, the Prime Minister expressed his support for the celebration of the Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Cambodia, encouraging all religious leaders across the nation to commemorate the occasion every year.

The Day of Prayer and Action for Children is an important event around the world, which aims to draw the attention of faith-based leaders to the plight of children who are at risk of harm.

In his speech, the Prime Minister urged all religious leaders, “to continue to support children, and to protect children and women from violence and abuses.” He added that increased cooperation would make a better Cambodia, which would be beneficial for all.

Ouknha Mr. Sus Kamrei speaks at the Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Phnom Penh
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

UNICEF Representative to Cambodia, Ms. Debora Comini, was also invited to speak at the event. “Children are the most precious members of all societies. But they are also the most delicate ones,” she said. “Families look up to faith-based leaders to guide society, and to show that protecting children is the collective duty and foremost priority of all.” Ms. Comini noted that this important event is being celebrated throughout Cambodia by diverse religious groups. “This is testament to the commitment of religious leaders to protecting children from harm,” she added.

Childhood violence can have lifelong negative health, social and economic consequences for survivors, including an adverse impact on brain development, behavioural problems, mental and physical health conditions, lower levels of educational attainment, and reduced future income.

According to the Cambodia Violence Against Children Survey released in October 2014, one in every two children in the country has been a victim of physical violence. Approximately one in four children has experienced emotional abuse. A groundbreaking report released earlier this month showed that Cambodia is losing millions of dollars every year due to health consequences and loss of productivity caused by violence against children. 

More than 4,400 people attended the Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Phnom Penh
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

Senior leaders representing the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths spoke to the audience at the gathering, with each leader reinforcing the same three key messages on the prevention of violence against children:

  • That children should be raised in a loving, caring, and non-violent environment where positive parenting plays a key role in the healthy growth of children.
  • That children see and children do: children learn and replicate the behaviour of their parents and other adults. It is therefore critical for adults to set a good example of non-violent behaviour.
  • A call to action to all faith-based members to prevent violence against children by guiding families and creating awareness among communities.

Participants including religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths, government officials, NGO members and UNICEF representatives gather on stage

Representatives of children and young people, Ms. Mao Lunhieng and Mr. Mat Apitin, also spoke at the event, calling for more efforts to protection children from all form of violence and abuse. They emphasised the importance of positive parenting, ending violent discipline by teachers in schools, and preventing early marriage under the age of 18. These key areas of advocacy were identified with the involvement of children in a series of consultations, organized in partnership by World Vision, Muslim Aid and UNICEF.

Mao Lunhieng and Mat Apitin spoke at the event on behalf of children and young people
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

The meeting was closed by the Royal Government of Cambodia awarding UNICEF and other development partners national medals of honour in recognition of the ongoing cooperation of this partnership. UNICEF was awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei-Meha Sirivudha, which was presented by His Excellency Min Khin, Minister of Cult and Religion.


UNICEF Representative to Cambodia, Ms. Debora Comini, with His Excellency Min Khin, Minister of Cult and Religion, after UNICEF was awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei-Meha Sirivudha
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

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