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Muslim leaders listen to speeches through headphones on National Day of Prayer and Action for Children
Muslim leaders listen to speeches through headphones on National Day of Prayer and Action for Children yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Interfaith prayer for children

Unicef and government officials yesterday called on religious leaders to help combat violence against children by educating their followers about consequences of violent child discipline common in Cambodia’s homes.

To commemorate National Day of Prayer and Action for Children, the minister of cults and religion, Min Khin, asked Buddhist, Muslim and Christian leaders to conduct a prayer to promote understanding of children’s rights and protection from violence, discrimination and neglect by their parents or at school.

This year’s event focused on preventing violence against children, encouraging religious leaders to use texts and teachings to guide their followers towards non-violent forms of child discipline.

A study by Unicef on violence against children in Cambodia, which will be released in April, found that more than 75 per cent of all children had experienced at least one incident of physical violence before the age of 12, often committed “by those they trust and love”, Unicef deputy representative Sunah Kim Suh said.

“Violent forms of discipline … including those that may be considered mild, such as hitting, insulting, making demeaning comments on them [can cause] immediate to long-term damage,” she said.

“In Cambodia, violence against children in the homes is quite regular. Parents find it difficult to change their behaviour, because the [social] norms that prepare violent behaviour in their community remain unchanged,” Kim Suh said.

Religious leaders, she added, have the ability to influence individual behaviour and social norms that underlie violence against children, because of their positions of respect.

Christian representative Oung Vibol appealed to Cambodian pastors yesterday to preach the tenets of love and peaceful conduct. “Pay attention, listen to the children and explain or talk to [them] with sweet words and reason,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khim Sorn, the capital’s chief monk, urged “all monks in every pagoda across the country [to] preach the laws and principles of Buddhism to the parents … about feeding children with love, and non-violence”.

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