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Arigatou International Commit to Securing Online Child Dignity

Arigatou International led by the President of Arigatou International, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, joined other global leaders across the world in advocating for a world free of online child violence during the Interfaith Alliance Forum for Safer Communities forum that took place from 19th – 20th November 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E). The forum was organised under the patronage of His Highness Sh. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) Armed Forces, and brought together more than four hundred and fifty (450) participants including religious leaders, representatives from international and grassroots organizations, governments, faith inspired organisations, experts on sexual exploitation and abuse of children and heads of industries and business entities. GNRC members from across the world also attended the event.

The forum was supported by several global organizations including Al Azhar, Arigatou International, Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Gregorian University, International Justice Mission, Religions for Peace International, Shanti Ashram, The Center for Child Protection of the Pontifical, The Child Dignity Alliance, UNICEF, WePROTECT Global Alliance and World Vision International. The forum discussed the world’s social challenges and developed comprehensive solutions for protecting children and youth from online exploitation and cybercrime. It also created the opportunity to reflect on its scope, the impact on children and what religious communities can do to prevent, respond and partner with other institutions and individuals to protect the dignity of the child. The forum reflected on U.A.E’s efforts to defend humanity, promote positive values and eliminate the physical and cultural sources of extremism and terrorism, which aim to destroy justice and tolerance within the country and across the world. During the two-day conference, it was noted that more than 700,000 images of sexual abuse are uploaded every day across online platforms, hence the need to mitigate the problem.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the U.A.E, Sh. Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, called for the world’s religious leaders and nations to work together to end online child abuse and exploitation. “We are at a point in history where we all need to come together to further cultivate the safety and protection of our children,” he said. Sh. Saif added that the U.A.E models values tolerance and peaceful coexistence between all faiths and it embraces the more than 200 nationalities from different cultures living in the country. He further called on nations to work together to tackle the issue. In her remarks, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, noted the need for organisations to empower parents and caregivers towards securing online child dignity.

"Technology is not bad, what is bad is how we use it. If we support parents and caregivers in understanding the cyber-space then children can feel more secure in the digital world." She stated.

The Chairman of the Emirates Fatwa Council, Sh. Abdallah bin Bayyah, referred to the sanctity of faith as a way to secure the rights and dignity of the child. "We have a great responsibility to take care of the young as bestowed by Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)," he stated. The Hindu Spiritual Leader, Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, advocated for a progressive world that advocates for protecting future generations. "Children are the flowers of the future; and child abuse destroys these flowers from blooming," she noted.

The Declaration for the forum was ratified at the Wahat Al Karama Memorial by religious leaders and international delegates from across the world, who pledged their efforts to preventing child abuse and exploitation as attributed by the forum and the Sustainable Development Goals. The declaration advocated for upholding online child dignity as a key priority in the society’s progress. It also supported the implementation of laws and regulations that protect the rights and dignity of the child. In his remarks, the Leader of Myochikai, and President of Arigatou International, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, dwelt on the potential and risks of technology towards peace and development, more so, in safeguarding the rights and well-being of the child. Sighting different progress in child protection across the world, Rev. Miyamoto insisted that more still needs to be done to attain ultimate success. He was however saddened by the levels of violence and abuse of children through modern day technology. "Progress in technology has not made us truly happy," he stated. Rev. Miyamoto called to the world’s religious leaders to secure the rights and the dignity of the child.

Participants pledged to promote dialogue and reinforce partnerships between international and grassroots institutions in order to prevent and end online child abuse and exploitation in the digital world. Participants also vowed to sensitize the communities at their capacities in securing the rights and dignity of the child. During the signing of the pledge, 2019 was declared “Year of Child Dignity” as a commitment to protecting children against the dangers of the digital world. The fight against child violence from abuse and exploitation of children is a key commitment across nations in securing the rights and dignity of the child. The first Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Forum in Abu Dhabi is just but a step towards a better world for children, more still need to be done. As part of pledging to the Panama Commitments on Ending Violence Against Children, Arigatou International and its four initiatives continues to implement and promote a better world for children free of violence against children. These efforts can be achieved through fostering interfaith dialogues, collaborations and empowering children towards securing the rights and dignity of the child.