In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the Geneva Declaration, an historic document that, for
the first time, recognized and affirmed the existence of rights specific to children, and the
responsibility of adults towards them.
The United Nations, founded after World War II, took over the Geneva Declaration in 1946.
However, following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the
advancement of rights revealed the shortcomings of the Geneva Declaration, and it had to be
On November 20, 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted unanimously by
all 78 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 1386 (XIV). This
marked the first major international consensus on the fundamental principles of children’s rights.
The new document laid down these ten principles: the right -
to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.
to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.
to a name and a nationality.
to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.
to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.
to understanding and love by parents and society.
to recreational activities and free education.
to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.
to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.
On October 22, 2018, a new University of California - Riverside study found that children are
sensitive to and suffer the impacts of discrimination as young as 7 years old. The study suggested that a strong sense of ethnic-racial identity is a significant buffer against these negative effects.
Fours years before, the United Nations Children’s Fund in its report called, Hidden in Plain Sight:
A statistical analysis of violence against children, stated that: mental violence is often described as psychological maltreatment; mental, verbal and emotional abuse; or neglect. This can include all forms of persistent harmful interactions with a child.
Some of the examples of this mental violence are:
Denying emotional responsiveness;
Humiliating, belittling, ridiculing, or hurting a child’s feelings.
Many of these examples are components of the discrimination that is rooted in racism.
As we consider our behaviour as Christians, we may believe that we don’t discriminate, and that
we aren’t racists.
But do we have an unconscious bias? Do we favour one thing, person, or group over another in a
way that could be considered not only unfair, but un-Christian? We’re not born understanding the
concept of favouritism. This is something that we learn.
In a church setting, what does it say about us if we tend to sit only with those of our ethnic
What does it say if we use words like those people and our kind?
What does it say when we deny emotional responsiveness to devastating stories that are in the
What does it say if we judge a child by the colour of his or her skin?
Children’s experiences are in the hands of those around them. But what did children experience
in the hands of Jesus?
In Mark 10:13-16, we read this loving story:
Then people brought little children to Jesus, that He might touch them; but the disciples
rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Let’s make certain children are as safe in our hands as they would be if Jesus was holding them as He held the children in those villages so long ago. As always, the choice is ours. Amen.