The Holy See
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‘Id al-Fitr 1425 A.H . / 2004 A.D.

Children, Gift of God for the Future of Humanity

Dear Friends,

1. This year again, at the time when you are preparing to celebrate 'Id al-Fitr at the end of the month of Ramadan, I wish to offer you very best wishes on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the office of His Holiness the Pope for relations with people of other religions. In their prayers many Christians have been thinking about you and accompanying you during this month of fasting, a month which occupies such an important place in the life of your community. At the earliest age possible you teach your children to observe this month of fasting, thus developing in them a sense of God and a spirit of religious obedience, at the same time helping them to train their will and to acquire self-discipline. In this way the family is, par excellence, the place where your children receive their first religious education.

2. Today I would like to call attention to children in general and to the welcome they should receive, at different moments of their life, from their parents, their family and from society. Every child has an inalienable right to life and, in so far as this is possible, to be welcomed within a natural, stable family. All children have moreover the right to nourishment, clothing and protection, and furthermore to be educated so that there may develop in them, and that later they may develop in themselves, all their capacities. In this perspective the child, when sick or victim of an accident, has the right to receive all necessary care. The life of the child, just as the life of every human person, is sacred.

3. You consider the child to be a blessing from God, in particular for the parents. As Christians we share with you this religious attitude, but our Christian faith teaches us also to discover in the child a model for our relationship with God. Jesus has given us as an example the child's simplicity and trust, docility and liveliness, showing us in this way how we should live in trusting submission to God.

4. On several occasions these last years representatives of the Holy See and of countries with a Muslim majority have defended together in international fora fundamental human values. It was often a matter of defending the rights of those who are the weakest, and notably the family as the natural environment in which children are nurtured and their rights are better preserved.

5. Although the child has benefited, at least in certain parts of the world and in certain areas of life, from progress in respect for human rights, there are still many evils which cause suffering. Too many children are forced to engage in heavy work that endangers their physical and psychological development, prevents them from attending school and thus deprives them of the instruction to which they have a right. Many others are conscripted or involved in wars and conflicts. Children have also been the first victims of the increase in sexual abuse and in prostitution over these last years.

Above all children are victims of certain changes in society. When families break up it is the children who are the first to suffer. The increase in the use of drugs and in drug trafficking, especially in poor countries, often involves children, to their great harm. Again, the despicable trafficking in organs concerns children in a particular way, and the tragedy of AIDS often means that they are infected from birth.

6. Faced with these evils that affect our children, dear friends, we should unite our efforts, reminding people of the dignity of every human being whose existence is willed by God Himself. We should denounce untiringly everything that degrades the child, combatting with all the force we can muster the "structures of sin", to use an expression taken up by Pope John Paul II. We are conscious that on the future of children depends the future of humanity. I hope therefore that our common endeavours in favour of children will continue and may in fact increase. In this way we shall give further proof of the benefit that can come from religion for the whole human community.

7. During this month of Ramadan, may your children be strong in accomplishing good works. May they, at the same time, learn to resist illusory promises of happiness and passing pleasures, thus acquiring greater inner freedom and becoming more perfect in their submission to God. May their lives in this way bear witness to the importance of religious values. Once more, I wish to assure you of my prayers to the Almighty and Merciful God for you and for your children. May God pour down on you His blessings. May He strengthen your families and instil in them a spirit of generous service to the glory of His name. May he grant each one of you His peace.


Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald