Pope calls for international commitment to eliminate child labour
By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis is calling on international and national authorities to defend vulnerable children, many of whom are enslaved in child labour and deprived of “a dignified and harmonious development.”
The message was signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on the Pope’s behalf. It is addressed to the Director of the UN’s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, where a Global Solutions Forum entitled “Acting Together to End Child Labour in Agriculture” is taking place on 2 and 3 November.
Decrying recent estimates that point to an increase in child labour, the Pope described the phenomenon as “a scourge that cruelly wounds the dignified existence and harmonious development of the youngest, considerably limiting their opportunities for the future.”
Impact of the pandemic
Noting that the exploitation of children for work “reduces and damages their lives to meet the productive and lucrative needs of adults,” he said this drama has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has pushed an increasing number of minors to drop out of school and fall into the “the clutches of this form of slavery.”
For many children, he continued, not going to school means not only missing out on opportunities that will enable them to face the challenges of adulthood, but also deprives them of their right to health, while many of them fall ill “because of the deplorable conditions in which they have to carry out the tasks that are vilely demanded of them.”
The Pope also focused on the agricultural sector, where he said, the emergency is, even more, alarming with “thousands of boys and girls forced to work tirelessly, in exhausting, precarious and demeaning conditions, suffering mistreatment, abuse and discrimination.”
The situation, he added, reaches the height of desolation when the parents themselves are forced to send their children to work, in order to support their families.
Humanity’s best investment
“Let a powerful cry rise from this meeting, demanding that the competent international and national authorities defend the serenity and happiness of children!” the Pope appealed.
He said that the best investment humanity can make is the protection of children. Protecting children, he continued, means respecting the different phases of their development and growth and allowing them to benefit from appropriate conditions in which to blossom.
He said that in order to protect children decisive action must be taken to help the families of small farmers so they are not forced to send their children to work to increase incomes that are otherwise so low they are unable to support their families.
A logic of care
Finally, the Pope said, “protecting children means acting in such a way as to open up horizons for them as free, honest and caring citizens.”
He expressed his wish for an appropriate and effective juridical system in order to defend and protect children from what he called “this harmful technocratic mentality that has taken over the present.”
Joint international commitment
Thus he called for an increase in the number of individuals and associations at every level working to ensure that the desire for “excessive profit that condemns children and young people to the brutal yoke of labour exploitation, may give way to a logic of care.”
In this sense, Pope Francis explained, it is necessary to continue to denounce, educate and raise awareness so that compulsive consumerism that has no qualms about enslaving children is overcome, and we end up forgetting that the planet’s resources must be preserved for future generations.
He concluded by asking for a joint commitment during the current International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, to ensure that children are able to pursue and cultivate their dreams, to play and to learn: “Thus the path to a bright future for the human family will be opened.”