Faith Communities Prepare to Celebrate Children as Divine Gifts

Thousands of faith communities across the country will take part in an annual, multi-faith holiday this weekend to celebrate children as sacred gifts of the Divine and to affirm their moral responsibility to care, protect, and advocate for all children.

Starting Friday, the National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Weekend will bring together faith communities through special worship services, educational programs, and congregational activities to engage people in the lives of children and their families.

"Though every Children's Sabbath celebration is unique, they all come together as a unified prophetic voice to nurture, protect and advocate for all children in America," said Matt Rosen, the Children's Defense Fund deputy director of religious action, in a statement.

"Participating religious communities continue the strong tradition of engaging in social justice by joining this powerful movement," he added. "Every step the faith community takes to improve the lives of its children will improve the lives of every one of us."

This year's observance will be the 17th and will be centered on the theme "When Will We Hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Call to End Poverty in America?" The multi-faith celebrations are sponsored by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Children's Defense Fund and supported by Catholic Charities U.S.A, the Islamic Society of Northern America, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., the National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá'ís in the U.S., the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and more than 200 religious organizations and denominations.

In some communities, all of the local congregations work together to sponsor a multi-faith service to which the entire community is invited.

To assist communities with planning and implementing their Children's Sabbaths Weekend, CDF produces an annual "National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Manual: A Multi-faith Resource for Year Round Child Advocacy." The manual includes resources for worship services, educational programs, direct service activities and social justice initiatives to guide faith communities in year-round child and family advocacy and celebrating the Children's Sabbaths weekend.

"This is a time for each of us to look beyond 'our' children and embrace all children," wrote Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who leads the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, in a recent column.

This year's observance also happens to cap the weeklong "media violence fast" sponsored by the media justice arm of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

For one week, starting Sunday, people were encouraged to take a stand against violent media by making a conscious decision not to watch it and seeking other methods of entertainment and intellectual stimulation for themselves and most importantly for their children.

According to statistics compiled by the National Institute on Media and Family, children aged 8-18 spend an average of 44.5 hours per week (6.5 hours per day ) in front of computer, television, and game screens and will see 100,000 acts of violence on television in the next 10 years.

Furthermore, at least six national medical groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, have warned of the effects of media violence on children, including increased anti-social and aggressive behavior, decreased sensitivity to violence and those who suffer from violence, and acceptance of violence as a way to settle conflicts.

On the Web:
More about CDF's National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Celebrations at www.childrensdefense.org/CHILDRENS_SABBATHS