All children should be protected from work that is dangerous, have the right to good quality health care, clean water and nutritious food, not be forced to join the army, be given special care and support if they have a disability, have the right to relax and play.
A group from Christian Brothers Academy attended the Lasallian Convocation on the Rights of the Child in April. Left to right (front row): Brendan Smith ’12 (Fayetteville), Kristina Wendl ’12 (Manlius); Meaghan Harrington ’12 (Liverpool); , Shannon Gross ’12 (Jamesville); (back row): Patrick Mullaney (CBA faculty); Cameron MacPherson ’12 (Syracuse); Becky Scullin ’12 (Liverpool); Emily Baskin ’12 ((Syracuse); Evan Adamo ’12 (Cicero); Patrick Mahar ’12 (Marcellus); Karen Osborn ’12 (Syracuse) and Maureen Lasda (CBA faculty). Missing from the photo but also in attendance at the conference were Tori Brown ’11 (Syracuse) and Nora Hakizimana ’12 (Syracuse).
While most of us take these rights for granted, many around the world do not, as children in every country – even the United States – are subjected to violence, abuse and lack of care. To raise awareness of this worldwide problem, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, United States-Toronto Region, invited students from Lasallian schools across North America to the Lasallian Convocation on the Rights of the Child, April 25-27, 2010, at the United Nations in New York City.
Joining the convocation of approximately 140 students was a group of 12 from Christian Brothers Academy, Syracuse, and two faculty members, Maureen Lasda and Patrick Mullaney. All have a special interest in learning more about children’s rights violations in the hopes of bringing back information to their community and raising awareness at CBA.
“I attended because I was interested in helping my community in a different way,” said Patrick Mahar ’12 of the experience. “I want to take back what I learned to my family and my church to help settle this problem. I didn’t know how many children were abused, and I was really surprised by the statistics on things like child trafficking. Helping this cause makes me feel better about myself because I’m standing up for something I believe in.”
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989. Since then, only two countries – the United States and Somalia—have not ratified the treaty. The convention emphasizes the rights of children to survive, develop to their full potential, have protection from abuse, discrimination and exploitation; and participate in family, cultural and social life. Having participated in the initial CRC committee 20 years ago, the
Christian Brothers found the ideas behind the convention to be complementary to their mission of providing human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor and marginalized, and have since advocated for the human rights and guiding principles enshrined in the treaty. The convocation marked the continuation of a concrete effort by the Lasallian educational community to partner service activities with justice-oriented advocacy reflective of Lasallian education moving forward in the 21st century.
During the convocation, CBA students and their counterparts participated in various activities, presentations and liturgies revolving around children’s rights. Guest speakers included Archbishop Celestino Migliore, a permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations; and Jimmy Briggs, former UNICEF goodwill ambassador and well-known human rights journalist. The students also toured the United Nations, met with several ambassadors, attended small group conferences on specific children’s rights topics, and had the opportunity to see some of the popular tourist sites of New York City, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and NBC’s The Today Show.
“It is most encouraging that our students had the interest and enthusiasm to learn more about the ‘Rights of the Child’ initiative,” said CBA Principal Brother Joseph Jozwiak, FSC. “The plight of children in places that abuse the basic rights of young people is tragic and incomprehensible. I am confident that our student representatives to this assembly returned home with an awareness and sensitivity to the reality of less fortunate children, along with a resolve to engage in proactive activities to help ensure this cause be promoted within our own community.”
The CBA students are in the early stages of planning a day-long event next fall in conjunction with the International Day for Children. They hope to share some of the alarming information they learned with their classmates, so that they, too, might join the cause and work to end these kinds of human rights violations.
“The conference helped promote understanding,” said Brendan Smith ’12. “We learned more about things happening in the world. And, there are things happening right in our own country that people need to be aware of – lack of education, domestic violence, child trafficking and sex abuse. We hope to raise awareness of these issues in our own school and communities to see what we can do to end it. We can make a difference.”