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Child labour in Afghanistan. Child labour in Afghanistan.  (AFP or licensors)

Pope warns those who force children into slavery

On World Day Against Child Labour, June 12, Pope Francis tweeted against those who rob children of the joys of childhood, forcing them into hazardous jobs.

By Robin Gomes

As the world marked the United Nation’s World Day Against Child Labour on Tuesday, Pope Francis came out strongly against the scourge, denouncing those who shatter the hopes of the little ones. 

“Children must be able to play, study and grow in a peaceful environment. Woe to anyone who stifles their joyful impulse to hope!” the Pope warned in a post on his Twitter account @Pontifex. 

International Labour Organization

The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) instituted the annual observance in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.

This Year the World Day Against Child Labour and the April 28 World Day for Safety and Health at Work,  shine a spotlight on the global need to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour.

The joint campaign aims to accelerate action to achieve safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030 and ending all forms of child labour by 2025, which are part of the 8th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). 

152 million victims of child labour

Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.  Of these, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them (73 million) work in hazardous child labour.

These children toil in mines and fields, factories and homes, are exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, or carry heavy loads or work long hours.  Many of them work in slave-like conditions and are forced into illicit activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution and armed conflict. They risk lifelong physical and psychological consequences.

Pope Francis’ warning

Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the international community to eradicate the scourge of child labour.  During his general audience on June 11, 2014, he held up an ILO’s red booklet like a referee’s red card with the word’s “All together against child labour,” written on it. 

The previous year, on June 12, 2013, World Day Against Child Labour,  the Pope during his general audience denounced  the exploitation of children in domestic work as “a true slavery”.

“All children,” he said, “must be able to play, study, pray and grow in their own families, and this in a harmonious context of love and serenity.”  

The Pope’s Tuesday tweet is an echo of his warning of June 13, 2013, against those who stifle the hope of children. 

The Pope said that it is a scourge that many people instead of letting children play make slaves of them. “A serene childhood allows children to look forward with confidence to life and the future.” “Woe to those who stifle their joyful impulse of hope!” the Pope warned. 

Child labour can be eradicated

Kailash Sathyarthi, who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts against child labour, believes it is possible to eradicate child labour.

At a recent ILO discussion online, he said that everyone should regard child labour as his or her personal problem, not someone else’s.  Governments and society must be made to feel its urgency, and not wait for others to combat it.  Satyarthi said that for the past 40 years he has regarded every child his own.

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12 June 2018, 13:25