Sri. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, participated in the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities’ first forum, ‘Child Dignity in the Digital World’. The forum took place in Abu Dhabi from November 19-20, 2018, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and other dignitaries.
At the invitation of the Government of the UAE, Amma delivered the opening address as part of a Call to Action by Faith Leaders, and participated in the Faith Leaders Summit, held at the landmark memorial monument Wahat Al Karama, wherein she and five senior faith leaders pledged their support for the Abu Dhabi Interfaith Declaration for Child Protection.
Amma’s address was based on her personal experience of having spoken directly with tens of thousands of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse all over the world during the past 30 years. “If our laws and their enforcement were effective, then why is sexual exploitation continuing to increase at an alarming rate? Even though the United Nations, governments and social welfare organizations are all working against this, why don’t we see an improvement? Knowingly or unknowingly, a key factor is being overlooked—spiritual values. Spiritual values are needed to develop a culture of the heart. A home should provide an environment that instills this culture right from childhood.”
Amma also spoke about the pros and cons of the internet, social media and smartphones, explaining that, as with any new technology, tremendous care must be taken with their use — something that Amma said currently is not being done.
Amma focused on the need for parents to be both vigilant about their children’s online and offline lives and to foster loving relationships with their children through which their sons and daughters can feel secure enough to have open-hearted communication with them about their troubles.
Amma also stressed the importance of parents inculcating spiritual values in their children in order to help them grow into healthy adults that have the self-control and compassion to always treat others with love and respect.
The problem is real and growing. Children and adolescents comprise a quarter of the more than 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide, and these 800 million young users are increasingly in danger of falling victim to sexual abuse, predation, exploitation and harassment. According to a 2015 study by Microsoft, 720,000 images of child sexual abuse are uploaded to the internet every single day.
More than 450 faith leaders from all religions participated in the event. In addition to Amma, participating faith leaders included Professor Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the President of the Muslim Council of Elders; Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church (on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I); Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland; Reverend Keishi Miyamoto, Leader of Myochikai; Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr. Mohinder Singh OBE KSG; Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha.