30 years on, the CRC is an important tool in Christians’ calling to help children flourish.
As Christians, our understanding of children's rights is rooted in our understanding of God, how He created the world and in the Bible's calls to love and serve our neighbours. Children's rights are, first and foremost, a gift from God. They reflect God's desire for a society characterised by shalom – a deep and abiding peace, love, mercy and joy—a divine reality that ensures all children are flourishing.
Our calling to seek justice and righteousness
Christ called us to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Throughout scripture, the stakes of what it truly means to love our neighbours (including our enemies) are clear. It requires promoting flourishing for all (not least children)—promoting truly restored, healthy and mutually respectful relationships characterised by love, a reality that goes far beyond the absence of violence or violation.
The concept of ‘Justice and righteousness’ is a deeply integrated aspect of the Christian narrative. ‘Justice and righteousness’ is one of the clearest and repeated messages throughout scripture appearing more than 600 times in the Old Testament and 200 times in the New Testament. Rights – as defined in the Bible and articulated through many ‘man-made' laws, conventions and other mechanisms – are essentially reflections on what it means to live in just relationship with each other.
The inherent value of children and their voices
God created every man, woman, boy and girl in the image of God with infinite dignity and value. Our rights are rooted not simply in a social contract or the mere fact that we exist, but because we were created by God with inherent value and, therefore, deeply rooted rights.
Jesus celebrated children in unprecedented ways. He called children to himself (Matthew 19:13-14). He encouraged his disciples repeatedly to listen to and learn from children and allow them to contribute in the life of the church and community (Mark 9:33-37, 10:13-16; Matthew 18:3, 21:14-16).
The Biblical story is also very clear about our natural tendency to mistreat, overlook or abuse the vulnerable—particularly children. God is clear that we have a unique and specific obligation to uphold the rights of the vulnerable as a reflection of the true state of our hearts and a reflection of humanity.
Building upon a foundation of Christians defending children as we implement the Convention of the Rights of the Child and amplify their voices
Christian groups and global bodies have a tradition of defending children since the days of the early church when early Christians defended against the widely used practice of infanticide. The Salvation Army, led by William Booth, championed the cause of ending child poverty. William Wilberforce led a Christian approach to social action to end slavery. Groups like the World Federation of Methodist Women and the International Catholic Child Bureau were heavily engaged in the process of writing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Christian groups are involved in monitoring and supporting child rights processes in countries around the world. The Convention on the Rights of the Child Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Working Group has 43 members—11 of them are faith-based, including World Vision. NGOs are even able to support the submission of alternative reports to national level reports if/when they feel the state report doesn't reflect fully or accurately the situation of children in communities. These faith-inspired NGOs share the foundational goal of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to create a better world in which children are cared for and can thrive.
World Vision carries on their tradition of upholding the God-given rights of children and the amplification of their voices through the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It serves as an essential standard to measure and advocate to ensure children survive, thrive and flourish.
Our calling as Christians to work together towards life in all its fullness for children
Ultimately, as Christians, we have the opportunity to support the ethos of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognising its roots can be deepened as we look at our faith and Scripture tradition. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a practical, simple framework to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities we have to help children experience life in all its fullness. As we celebrate 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we proclaim and lift up the Biblical vision of God-given rights for all children everywhere—joining any and all partners working for child rights—to build a world where our vision of a world where children truly experience life in all its fullness is realised. May each of us have the will to make it so.
The Rev. Christo Greyling, Senior Director – Faith and External Engagement