Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, apostolic nuncio of India, speaking at the seminar in New Delhi on Sept. 27 on the theme 'Regional Interfaith Dialogue on Child Dignity online'. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)
Indian Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders are exploring ways to safeguard youngsters utilizing the Internet.
Some 50 leaders from these faiths, along with international experts, formulated plans at the 'Regional Interfaith Dialogue on Child Dignity Online' held in the capital, New Delhi, Sept. 26-27.
Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, apostolic nuncio of India, was among the leaders who took part in the dialogue organized by non-governmental groups, including the Focolare Movement with strong Catholic links.
Archbishop Diquattro said children should be taught about the dangers of false information carried on social media and other Internet platforms.
Family prayers, listening to the views of children and spending time with them were all important ways of dealing with this problem, Archbishop Diquattro said.
Javier Aguilar, head of UNICEF India's child protection wing, said faith leaders had a vital role to play in sensitizing stakeholders on key issues and minimizing harm.
Professor Anant Rambachan, of the Japan-based child development group Arigatou International, said the New Delhi seminar aimed to develop strategies to stem violence at both family and societal levels.
It also fostered inter-religious dialogue on moral and ethical issues linked to technological change, including positive and negative impacts, he said.
While traditional forms of violence continue, new challenges were emerging such as grooming, sexting, cyber bullying and webcam sexual exploitation of children, seminar speakers said.
In 2015, more than half of the world's children experienced some form of violence, which was pervasive, but largely invisible and often not properly investigated or addressed, the seminar was told.
UNICEF's 'The State of the World's Children 2017: Children in a digital world' showed that one of every three Internet users worldwide was under the age of 18.
Young people, aged from 15 to 24, were the most Internet-connected group.
However, there was nonetheless still a digital divide, with 29 percent of young people around the world unable to connect online because of poverty.
Papers as part of the interfaith dialogue noted that things have moved so fast that many nations had been unable to develop mechanisms to protect children from risks posed by new communications technologies.
Swami Atma Priyananda, vice chancellor, Ramakrishna Mission Viveknanda University, in West Bengal state, said people look to their faith leaders for solutions to difficulties arising from technological change.
He stressed that the best place to start in saving children from violence was in their homes.
Muslim intellectual Aktharul Wassey, of Maulana Azad University in Jodhpur, Rajasthan state, said faith leaders could combat child abuse by educating and sensitizing communities.
The New Delhi seminar was a follow-up to a 2017 meeting in Rome and was also used to prepare for another meeting related to child protection in Abu Dhabi scheduled for Nov. 19-20.