number 6, december 10, 1998

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Children say it’s time for action

Children can change the world, Craig Kielburger said yesterday at a padare on children’s rights. After all, he said, Christ worked the miracle of the loaves and fishes with the help of a child.

"There’s no shortage of plans for overcoming the problems of the world’s children, but there’s a shortage of action," he said. "There are lots of meetings. They produce statements about children’s rights. There are other meetings to ratify them. Now it’s time for action.

"The WCC is one of the most proactive international organisations when it comes to involving youth. But it still has a long way to go."

Craig said the church is not always good at listening to the voice of children. "Here at the WCC assembly we have meetings discussing the abuse of children. And here in this assembly there are children who have lived through that abuse and risen above it. How many people are hearing their voice?"

Craig said the churches were one of the most powerful groups in the world. "Governments are losing their power more and more as corporations become more and more powerful," he said.

"There’s consumerism. The media glamorise sex. Many people equate material goods with success.

"Young people are looking for moral leadership. Where are we going to find it? Certainly not in our politicians and sports stars. Today, more than ever, the churches have a crucial role to play."

In some ways, Craig said, the churches had failed children. "The churches should be challenging children to do more than just go to church and Sunday school," he said. "That’s important. But then it’s a question of taking Jesus’ teaching and implementing it in our lives. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t been too successful at taking Jesus’ message and putting it into action.

"Jesus didn’t just preach. He also went out to the poor, the sick and the destitute. He lived with them. He helped in the healing. That’s what we’ve forgotten."

Craig, an Anglican, said he had sometimes questioned his faith as he visited children around the world.

"I see magnificent churches," he said. "They’re locked at night. Why? Because they don’t want undesirable types, like street children, to sleep in them. Some churches go to great lengths to keep street children out.

"If Jesus were on earth today he would throw open the doors of those churches, would welcome the children in and embrace them. He would be finding them places to sleep and opening food kitchens and health centres.

"Jesus’ message isn’t just to pass on the scriptures to people. It’s to pass on his love."

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World's most dynamic schoolboy?

Craig Kielburger, 15, could well be the world’s most dynamic schoolboy. He lives with his parents in a comfortable middle-class home in Ontario, Canada. In April, 1995, he opened a newspaper and read and article that changed his life. It was about a Pakistani boy of his own age, Iqbal.

When Iqbal was four, his parents sold him into slavery. He was shackled to a carpet loom 12 hours a day, six days a week, and paid six cents a day. Eventually he escaped, helped form a union and began to spread the word about the horrors of child labour. When he began to gain international attention he was shot dead near his home near Lahore, Pakistan.

Craig, then aged 12, founded an international organisation, Free the Children, which fights for children’s rights. His message to children is that their voices can be heard and their actions can make a difference.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Capoeira, their way to move around campus
Children say it's time for action &
World's most dynamic schoolboy?
Children issue some challenges
CNN world news coverage ‘mile wide, half-inch thick’
Young speak of dignity
God of many names
Street kids have their own plot
An advent night in Africa

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor