Is Our Conscience Revolted?

A Conversation on Children in War, Grounded in Rights and Faith

December 14, 2023
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. EST
Location: Online Zoom

A common theme among the world’s religious traditions is explicit commitment to values that center on children and families. Many traditions affirm the right of every child to food, health, shelter, education, and the support of parents and communities. Given the depth of these commitments, it is not surprising that faith communities have been prominent in the struggle for children’s well-being around the world. Similarly, states have developed an elaborate legal framework under international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law to ensure protection for children affected by armed conflict, as well as related obligations on states and non-state actors. Like all human rights standards and principles, these are meant to apply at all times and everywhere. And yet, such commitments are seriously tested in the midst of war and conflict, where children are disproportionately impacted. 

“It is unforgivable that children are assaulted, violated, murdered and yet our conscience is not revolted, nor our sense of dignity challenged," says Graça Machel, Mozambique’s first post-independence Minister for Education and author of a groundbreaking UN report on the impact of armed conflict on children. "This represents a fundamental crisis of our civilization. The impact of armed conflict on children must be everyone’s concern and is everyone’s responsibility.” In the current crisis unfolding in Israel and Gaza, children were deliberately attacked, killed, and taken hostage by Hamas. Thousands of children have been killed and injured in retaliatory strikes in Gaza and continue to die each day. The conflict has accentuated deep divides and polarization. 

How might the conversation about the conflict change when we center children and our commitments to them? Encounter between and dialogue among intergenerational members of religious communities is critical to making progress on the most challenging issues facing children bearing the brunt of war. During this webinar, participants considered the following questions: When children’s lives and well-being are at serious risk, how can religious institutions and faith communities help to uphold commitments to children’s rights and protection and strengthen child-centered moral conscience? How do the impacts of war on children affect their mental health, moral compass, and capacity to empathize with others? Do these impacts on young minds risk aggravating and prolonging the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, jeopardizing possibilities of conflict transformation, peace, and security in the future? 

This event was part of the Culture of Encounter Project's international, interfaith working group on child rights and convened by the Collaborative on Global Children's Issues and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay user JuiMagicman.


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