The planning for the Third Forum is currently underway and more details will be available soon. Several elements of the Forum, however, have already been determined. Here are just a few of the things that participants can look forward to experiencing at the Forum.
A return to the origins of the GNRC
The Third Forum is expected to provide an opportunity for participants to reconnect with the essential spirit of the GNRC. The GNRC had its origins in the profound, heartfelt conviction of Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, President of the Arigatou Foundation. Looking out at the enormous suffering of children around the world, Rev. Miyamoto was simply compelled, as an ordinary person of faith, to take more responsibility for alleviating their plight. He was convinced that the most valuable asset that could be created and passed on to future generations would be an environment in which all children can grow up in sound physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Acknowledging the sad fact that cooperation between people of different religious beliefs had often lagged behind secular forms of solidarity, he issued a call for people of all faiths to start working together earnestly to build a better world for children. Hundreds responded to this call and came to Tokyo in May 2000 for the First Forum of the GNRC, where they committed themselves to interfaith cooperation for and with children and launched a powerful movement which, within just a few years, would go on to establish active GNRC networks in six major world regions. The rapid growth of the GNRC and its growing practical impact in the lives of children around the world have their roots in this original spirit of the GNRC, expressed so well in the words of the First Forum Statement:
- "Together, people of religious conviction agree that every child is promise, sacred gift, and pledge of the future. Our diverse religious visions shape our approaches to the child; they call us to repentance, hope, and commitment.
- "...as religious persons, we acknowledge in particular and repent for when our religious traditions have not put into practice their own deepest insights into the dignity of the child."
- "Children are for us a source of hope, they bear promise, and they confirm for us the sacredness of reality. We draw strength from them and from one another's commitments to them."
The main theme of the First Forum was "Prayer and Practice for the Future of Children." In inaugurating the GNRC, Rev. Miyamoto was calling people of all faiths to pray for and put their faith into practice for children, and the original members of the GNRC who attended the Forum dedicated themselves to these two essential disciplines, to one another, and to the children of the world - all in a spirit of repentance, hope, and commitment. The Third Forum in Hiroshima will focus on a return to these spiritual origins of the GNRC.
Bold new initiatives for the future
The Third Forum will do much more than look back. It is being designed to provide participants with focused opportunities to define precisely how the GNRC itself and they, as GNRC members active in their own local contexts and communities, can best contribute to solutions for specific problems children face. The Third Forum will also be the occasion for the worldwide introduction of the Toolkit for Interfaith Ethics Education that has been under extensive development for the past several years. It will thus be significant not only for advancing the GNRC's flagship regional initiatives, but also for launching in earnest the GNRC's first global-scale project. The outcome of a major joint study with UNICEF entitled "Children in World Religions" will also be on the agenda.
The Third Forum will thus represent the fruition of many of developments of the Second Forum held in Geneva in May 2004, the theme of which was "Our Promise to Children." Participants at the Second Forum asked themselves how far the GNRC had come in its first four years in keeping the promises made at the First Forum. For most, the answer came back: not far enough. With a spirit of renewed resolve and determination, GNRC members set about making specific regional action plans. The Second Forum also highlighted the establishment of the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children, which had been promised by Rev. Miyamoto when he spoke on behalf of the GNRC at the United Nations Special Session on Children in May 2002.
With many outstanding regional projects and initiatives already accomplished or underway, GNRC members at the Third Forum will have a profound opportunity to take the best practices from each region and develop even more targeted and effective interventions for the future. The Third Forum will both underscore and prime the further growth of the GNRC on global, regional, and local levels.
The Third Forum is also expected to feature broader partnership than ever from international organizations, representatives of government, academia, the NGO world, media, business, and others from all walks of life with a shared commitment to children and young people.
More information to come
The GNRC Third Forum Organizing Committee continues to plan for the Forum. The GNRC coordinators are key members of the Committee, and they are gathering input on the planning process from GNRC members from around the world. Among the next items to be announced are: the Forum's main theme, core thematic tracks, and guidelines on applying to participate.