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11/12/2015 - Italy - Street children and interreligious dialogue

(ANAS - Cagliari) - The reality of street children and the relationship of the Church towards other religions was the focus of a meeting held recently in Cagliari, Sardinia. Today it is estimated that there are between 100 and 150 million street children in the world and it is likely that their numbers are increasing due to global population growth and urbanization.

This is an approximate estimate, because street children are beyond statistics, censuses and institutions. They are often excluded from government programmes and policies. Most attempts at quantifying the overall size of the phenomenon are nothing but guess work, made even more complex by the lack of an international consensus on the definition of a street child.

The most commonly used definition is that of UNICEF, which regards as 'street children' young people for whom the street is their home and/or the main source of livelihood, and who are inadequately protected or cared for. This definition includes 'street-working children' who live in the street but have a family or a home, and 'street-living children' who have nothing. A more recent definition considers street children those for whom the street constitutes their main reference point and has a central role in their lives.

The phenomenon of street children is a predominantly urban problem and is often thought to be characteristic of large cities in developing countries. However, it is a plague that is becoming increasingly widespread in the industrialized world, mainly because of migration.

The topic of interreligious dialogue was addressed by Guido Errico, Salesian National Delegate for missionary animation. He made reference to various texts from Italian civil legislation and to the speech given by the Pope in Sri Lanka at the meeting with the four major religious communities: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church declared its deep and abiding respect for other religions. It "rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. It regards with sincere reverence their ways of conduct and of life, their precepts and doctrines." Pope Francis reaffirmed these words and his overriding desire for a deep dialogue: "I hope that interfaith and ecumenical collaboration will show that, to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters, men and women should not forget their identity, whether ethnic or religious."

Published 11/12/2015  

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