21 November 2016

Children's rights

Universal Day of Children’s Rights

On the 20th November 1959 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. On its 30th anniversary, the UN General Assembly adopted the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child. For this reason we celebrate the Universal Day of Child­ren’s Rights each year on the 20th November.


FMSI, the Marist International Solidarity Foundation, which has a primary focus on child rights, calls for special attention to this day and has sent out ten Email messages in which children and young people write about the situation regarding children’s rights in their country (www.fmsi-onlus.org/contenidos.php?p=20_nov_2016).

In the summer of this year a group of young Germans visited the Hermitage in France as part of their preparation for the voluntary work they were going to do abroad (with the Cmi Germany programme). On the way back they also visited the FMSI office in Geneva. What follows is an account of that visit.


International Protection of Children

Why a year abroad with CMI? Once we had posed this important question in the Her­mi­tage in a spiritual context we then got a clear response in Geneva.

“We seek to promote innovative thinking and practical initiatives for the benefit of child­ren and young people, especially those considered most vulnerable and neglected.” That is the vision of Brother Manel and Brother Evaristus, both Marist Brothers who welcomed us wholeheartedly into their house and gave us the opportunity to learn something of their important work at FMSI.

Our visit to the UN Human Rights headquarters in Geneva on the 20th July 2016 marked a most meaningful end to our seminar. During a tour of the whole building, apart from the wonderful view, what remained in our memory was the importance of those rooms. It is not every day one gets the opportunity to sit in the very place where a peace agreement between Iraq and Iran and North and South Korea was negotiated.

With a new understanding of the importance of the UN for human rights, we made our way to the offices of the Marists in Geneva. Our hosts received us with a discourse in which they explained their position.

FMSI (Fondazione Marista per la Solidarietà Internazionale), the organisation for whom the two of them work, was founded in Italy as a charitable institution. Working together with the UN, the members are able to participate in conferences, meetings and workshops concerned with the rights of children. With the aim of what in English they call “Advocacy”, which amounts to the same as the German Anwaltschaft or In­te­res­sen­vertretung, they bring to the notice of the public in all countries of the world reports which highlight the abuse of Children’s rights. On the basis of local demands and ini­tia­tives being achieved, children have a chance of a better upbringing and hopefully can look to the future. This is made possible through the voice of the UN but significantly, is also thanks to the Marist international network which highlights and brings to the notice of the public any local abuses. “Governments have responded to our papers and have changed” is a noteworthy comment from Brother Manel who showed me some of his reports of abuse of Children’s rights in Africa. We experience here at first hand things which are not reported in our media: it is important that Children’s rights are safeguarded throughout the world and with courage and involvement this can be achieved.

The door is now open for us through the international Marist network to work together in the true interest of children – this is extraordinary motivation to be involved in the voluntary work which nowadays is strongly put before us. “Somebody has to do the job” says Brother Manel modestly of his work which is not always simple and without dan­ger. So our task is to get involved in developing countries – there should be no lack of motivation here.

Sofie Bliemel


Cmi Deutschland: www.cmi-maristen.org

Cmi International: www.champagnat.org/400.php?a=21

FMSI: www.fmsi-onlus.org

General House, article on Universal Children’s Day:


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