A huge gathering of eight hundred children and their accompaniers from the dioceses of the Church of South India was inaugurated on 20th and 21st May at the Bishop’s Cotton Boy's School in Karnataka Central Diocese, Bangalore. Children sang together, attended workshops on issues relating to child rights, deliberated on issues of child protection, and raise their opinions and aspirations about a child-friendly church during this event.
The two-fold purpose of Child Champs 2019, was to empower children to become champions for issues of children in the community and also introduce salient components of the draft CSI Child protection policy.
The Moderator, Most. Rev. Thomas K. Oommen, Deputy moderator Rt. Rev. Vadapalli Prasada Rao, General Secretary Rev. Dr. Rathnakara Sadananda, Treasurer Advocate Robert C Bruce, Rt. Rev. Prasanna Kumar Samuel, Bishop in Karnataka Central Diocese, the host Diocese of child champs, officers of the Diocese and senior pastors joined the children who carried the wooden cross, different coloured clothes for the altar and the Diocese flags. The CSI leadership, in the person of Synod Officers, and Bishops of various CSI Dioceses addressed and felicitated the children in all the four regional languages immediately after the inaugural worship.
Day 1 began with a procession, the worship altar set up by children, worship and inaugural led by children. The worship had children and youth leading lively action songs. An animated video clip on the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers led to enactment on contemporary situations of trafficking. Children also led to responsive prayers. Children were thus introduced to the theme "Child Champs for love and Equality".
The second half of the day deepened the understanding about issues faced by children in the community through 3 parallel storytelling sessions: Children with disabilities; Children at risk and Children in Conflict.
Each session had short inputs by resource person, activities, puppet shows on the topics, enactment by youth volunteers, story writing and ended up with children making commitments and action plans about how they would become child champs to take these issues of Children forward.
A Special session for intellectually challenged Children with action songs, games and activities ran parallel to the three main breaks out sessions of the Child Champs 2019.
Storytelling on Children with Disabilities: Children listened to the challenges of children with disabilities. Experiences were shared by children with hearing and visual impairment. Puppets livened the session and children worked hard on making action plans.
Storytelling session on Children in Conflict had children involved in various activities like story writing and making their pledges about how they would take up the issue of Children in conflict: in situations of war, in domestic violence and in conflict with the law.
Story Telling Session on Children at Risk covered Street children, migrant children, gender non-conforming children, children of CSWs and trafficked children. Children were informed about how to champion these causes as well as how to protect themselves if caught in such situations themselves.
On Day 2 had children breaking into four regional languages: Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam & Kannada. Children focused on various vulnerabilities faced by children in a community that was enacted by children themselves as skits and tableaus. Children were then facilitated to express biblical texts that uplift children in creative ways through charts, songs and enactments.
A plenary then took suggestions and ideas from children on the ways the church can improve a lot of children both within Church and in society. The final session had a complaint and suggestion Box for children to share suggestions for building a child-friendly church some of which were then picked out and discussed.
Both days had Cultural performances by children from various dioceses in the evening in which children displayed with enthusiasm their talents and what that had learnt at Child Champs 2019.
The Closing act of commitment and commissioning saw child representatives from each Diocese take up the coloured clothes that they presented at the opening worship and tying them together to form a circle. This Circle signified wholeness and that there was no beginning or end, no hierarchy between them and they were all loved by God equally. The children challenged the adults, elders, parents, and peers who were their immediate circle of care to rise up to the challenge of listening to children and nurturing them. The coloured Circle also signified the diversity of Abilities and disabilities among the children and that these children of the Child Champs 2019 now committed to becoming the Circle of Care for children in the community who faced various vulnerabilities.
Rt. Rev Prasanna Kumar Samuel, Bishop in Karnataka Central Diocese during his concluding message challenged the children to go into the world as the light to expel darkness. He encouraged them to go and share the learning they have received with other children of their churches and community to sensitize them.
Rev. Dr. Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary CSI during his concluding remarks challenged the children to be responsible champions and assured the children that the CSI will take into consideration all their suggestions and voices from this great Children's gathering.
The Church of South India affirms that our journey with the children moves us to become truly child-friendly in concrete ways and we are proud and humbled by the leadership of children that teaches us about the kingdom of God and being champions for the rights of children.
The "Child Champs for love and Equality 2019", the Children's Synod of the CSI, was facilitated by CSI SEVA in coordination with other departments of the Synod and hosted by Karnataka Central Diocese.
On behalf of the CSI Synod leadership and CSI SEVA, a deep sense of gratitude is recorded to Karnataka Central Diocese under the able leadership of Bishop Rt. Rev Prasanna Kumar Samuel for the warm hospitality and well-coordinated local arrangements in making this event a memorable one.
Rev. Solomon Paul,
Director, CSI SEVA.