The following is a feature article from the World Council of Churches originally published on 24 May 2016.
Women and children figure prominently as refugees in mass movements of people in recent months and their rights will be at the forefront of a summer school organized in Greece by the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
CEC’s third Summer School on Human Rights, in Thessaloniki, Greece, is themed: “Stand Up For Women’s And Children’s Rights” and will take place 31 May – 4 June in partnership with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Theology.
Greece is an ideal location to discuss those rights as it has borne the recent brunt of the hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing into Europe over the past year as the first place of welcome for many of those fleeing the devastating war in Syria and other conflicts.
Those women and children on the move face a mountain of challenges and these will take centre stage at the summer school. Participants will learn more from theological, legal, and political perspectives and exchange best practices.
The main conference starts on 1 June with a theological focus on the rights of the child under the moderation of Natallia Vasilevich of the World Student Christian Federation in Europe.
The key speakers will be Rev. Dr Göran Gunner of the Church of Sweden, Rev. Luca Baratto of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and Dr Christos Tsironis from the School of Theology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Mag. Elizabeta Kitanović, CEC’s executive secretary for human rights, said there are many places in the world where the rights of women and children “are still very heavily violated.”
Those rights include civil and political, social, economic and cultural rights.
“The participants of the CEC Summer School on Human Rights will discuss theological approaches to women and children’s rights as well as international legal instruments and mechanisms that help the promotion and protection of these rights.”
Explaining the theme of the school, Kitanović notes that in the gospels it is evident that the human dignity of women and men is equal before God.
“The role of women is visible in the history of salvation, and there is a special concern for widows, and those women who followed Jesus during his ministry as his most faithful disciples,” said Kitanović. “The resurrection was first revealed to these women.”
On the second day, dealing with the legal approach regarding Europe and the United Nations (UN), Dr Lina Papadopoulou of the School of Law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki will moderate the session.
The main speakers will be Dr Anne Negre, gender equality expert from the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe; Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, World Council of Churches programme executive for Women in Church and Society and Rev. Dr Patrick Schnabel, a European legal advisor for the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany).
Among issues related to women’s rights participants will discuss human and organ trafficking, sexual exploitation, working conditions and pay, an equal level of education and progress in the work place, arranged marriages and female genital mutilation.
“Due to such degrading treatment women and children face daily, participants will explore work already accomplished by churches, European institutions including the Council of Europe, European Union, and NATO,” said Kitanović.
The children who accompany many of the women entering Europe will also be a focus.
“Due to their mental and physical development, children need special attention. For children to mature it is necessary that they have good conditions so they may develop physically and socially into healthy personalities,” says Kitanović.