‘Engaging Faith Communities’ an important look at conflict between religious tradition and modern child ethics

This morning’s early events were ‘break-out’ sessions divided into five different lectures: Engaging Parents, Engaging Faith Communities, Engaging Cultural Communities, Engaging Teachers, Doctors & Other Professionals, and Engaging Youth. I chose to attend Engaging Faith Communities, which took place in the Far East Room here at the Fairmont and featured Chris Dodd, Rita Swan, and Raffi Cavoukian.

There were some pretty interesting ideas on display here. Chris Dodd led off with a brief lecture on how working with religious leaders and their respective communities to end corporal punishment was incredibly important for the overall cause. Rita Swan followed up with some interesting anecdotes on how she was able to collaborate with the Methodist Church community to pass an anti-CP resolution in 2004. While the resolution was indeed passed and still holds true today, Swan lamented the continuing obstacles hindering discourse with faith communities today, such as the pro-CP stance of James Dobson, a notable fundamentalist conservative. Among some literature she recommended to counter Dobson’s arguments were Thy Rod And Thy Staff by Samuel Martin and How Would Jesus Raise Your Child? by Teresa Whitehurst.

Swan was also adamant to remind the attendees that direct, uninhibited confrontation with the religious community would in all likelihood hinder future discourse.

“We will never engage with faith communities if we begin  talks by saddling them with guild for using corporal punishment,” said Swan.

Raffi Cavoukian gave more detail on his Centre for Child Honouring and how he was inspired to create such an institution. Looking back at his young childhood attending an ‘imposing’ Armenian church in Egypt with ‘fearful, child-unfriendly’ clerks dressed completely in black, Cavoukian pondered the nature of some church-made ‘commandments’ and their credibility.

“You can’t force anybody to feel what  they don’t feel,” Cavoukian said in response to some of the more dogmatic church laws.

“We are born for creativity…our call of duty is to conscience, not authority.”

Cavoukian then provided two plaques inscribed with a ‘plea to faith leaders’ to end CP and all forms of child violence and a pro-child honoring ‘proclamation’ that he hopes will be signed by well over 100,000 faith leaders.

(The manner in which he held the plaques made him look like Moses with the Ten Commandment tablets- a humorous visual which both he and the audience had a laugh about.)

“It’s how we see the child that may inform how we live as human beings,” said Cavoukian.

“Neuroscience has shown us what Aboriginal cultures have already known for centuries- we have a sacred bond with the child.”

I’m off to the Gold Room to cover one of the final panels of the conference, ‘Brainstorming Strategies toward Ending C. P. in Schools’. Texas and Louisiana State Representatives Dr. Alma Allen and Barbara Norton will be joining Nadine Block as panelists. I’ll be back with more coverage on that later today!

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