Vatican calls online harassment 'violence,' ups efforts to fight it

Vatican calls online harassment 'violence,' ups efforts to fight it

Laptop keyboard. Credit: Charles Rondeau (CC0 1.0).
Laptop keyboard. Credit: Charles Rondeau (CC0 1.0).

.- The Holy See joined efforts with other Catholic organizations in order to raise awareness of the increasing trend of Internet threats, which is one among many current forms of violence against youth.

“The Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace wanted to give visibility to this new and very worrying form of violence against children and youth, which comes in addition to a long list of other forms of violence and enslavement that we already know,” Cardinal Peter Turkson told journalists on Dec. 9.

“Stop threats on the Internet” is the title of a campaign organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Bureau International Catholique de L'Enfance, which is a France-based international Catholic network of organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting children's rights.

Launched during a Dec. 9 press conference in the Vatican, the campaign also begins in the context of the 25th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which opened for signatures in 1989.

The Catholique de L'Enfance network has already organized an online petition for the campaign to end Internet threats. Carrying the title of the campaign itself, the petition already has more than 10,000 signatures.

In his speech for the launch event, Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, explained that the examples of violence against children and youth are unfortunately increasing.

“Just think of the minors who are victims of trafficking, for a variety of purposes, such as the market of prostitution, pornography, the sale of drugs, the removal of organs or the recruitment off soldiers and beggars,” he said.

The cardinal also drew attention to the situation of minors forced to work as servants or salves in various fields, as well as unidentified minors who travel through harsh conditions only to be deposited into identification centers where they either stay or get sent back to where they came from.

Cardinal Turkson also drew attention to the plight of the many youth who “are victims of forced marriage and those who are induced to offer ‘sexual comfort’ to terrorists in the context of the phenomenon, which seems to be spreading, (and) the many children killed even before birth.”

He noted how the international community has worked through various legal means throughout the years to counter these phenomena, saying that the formation of the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child is one of the more significant means.

The Holy See, in partnership with the convention, seeks to ensure children of their fundamental rights, he said, explaining that due to their lack of “physical and mental maturity,” minors are in need of a “special protection and care, in particular an appropriate legal protection, both before and after birth.”

However, despite the numerous programs implemented at the state level and that civil society, the international community has not been able to eradicate the many forms of violence and exploitation directed toward children, Cardinal Turkson observed.

Because of this, he stressed the importance of education “as an essential part of the common effort of humanity to prevent and eliminate the terrible plagues mentioned, including the issue of harassment on the Internet.”

The education of youth, he said, must consist of teaching them to view others as persons of equal dignity who deserve to be welcomed and embraced, rather as than enemies or competitors.

“It must educate them on human rights, those of justice and peace,” the cardinal noted, saying that for its part the Holy See intends to take every opportunity provided through its multilateral relations to assure every child's right to live as well as to live in conditions compatible with “the intrinsic dignity of every human person.”

He encouraged local churches as well as Catholic and Catholic-inspired organizations around the world to join in committing themselves to fight for rights of children who are subjected to situations of violence, suffering and injustice.

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