Faith leaders discuss plight of vulnerable children during UN event

While attending July’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, faith leaders also gathered for a deeper conversation on how the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as climate change and political conflict, were effecting children.

The July 11 side event, “A Child-Centric Vision for 2030 — Building on the 4Cs: Climate, COVID, Conflict, and Children,” was sponsored by Arigatou International and organized by the United Church of Christ’s UN office, the New York Board of Rabbis, the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities and the Baha’i International Community.

For Donna Bollinger, UCC representative to the UN, the event was a “wonderful interfaith opportunity” to discern with and learn from colleagues dedicated to helping the world’s most vulnerable members.

Attendees of the main forum discussed the impact of COVID on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) — 17 goals to protect the planet and improve lives in which 193 countries committed to achieve by 2023.

“Among these goals are to eradicate hunger and poverty and provide education,” Bollinger said. “We are mindful of the needs of children in meeting these goals.”

UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson added that the denomination is “committed to ensuring that children around the world have what they need to flourish.”

“Poverty, hunger and other social injustices are affecting our children globally, preventing them from accessing the resources they need to learn and grow,” said Thompson. “We will be present in the public square where advocacy is needed for our children and lift our voices along with other faith communities and civil society demanding justice for them.”

Trafficking and exploitation

Speakers invited to the side event included Lt. Col. Dana Humaid, chief executive of Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; the Rev. Raleigh Sadler, founder and executive director of Let My People Go; and Susan Bissell, who founded and was director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

Among the topics discussed was the high risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation among children who are vulnerable. Humaid shared that, in 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cybertip Line received 32 million reports of suspected child exploitation. Sadler then reiterated the sobering reminder that “everyone who is vulnerable can be trafficked.” Potasnik also added that when saying “never again” to injustices and atrocities that “never again is only a slogan unless you do something about it.”

When asked what those in faith communities can do to help children, the speakers all stressed the need to be aware, assess needs and get involved. Potasnik called it the “four C’s” of community involvement: communication, coordination, confrontation and commitment.

“Once you see, you can’t unsee,” said Bissell. “It’s time to get political. People need to hear the faith voice.”

The July SDG forum was part of the midterm review of the goals in preparation for the 2023 summit to be held in Sept. 18 and 19 at the UN. 

While Bollinger’s role is new for her, having started in May 2023, it is also a new to the UCC.

“We are expanding our witness at the United Nations as we seek a just world for all,” said Thompson.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is communications specialist for Wider Church Ministries.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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