Paris (Agenzia Fides) - SOS Children's Villages is a secular and apolitical organization. When asked about the reception of Christian children at the SOS Children's Village of Gode, Ethiopia (see Fides 4/1/2017), the NGO reaffirmed its commitment and respect for the culture, religion and beliefs of the children it welcomes in the various structures it has in world, in accordance with Article 14 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The intervention of SOS Children's Villages France comes following the reports, sent to Agenzia Fides, on forced conversions of Christian children to Islam in the community of Gode, Somali region of Ethiopia.
"There has never been any forced conversion of children of any religion in an SOS Village", reads the statement sent to Fides. "The priority of SOS Children's Village of Gode, created in 2004, has always been to save children at risk in an area close to the chaotic border with Somalia. Some, abandoned, unknown and without documents, were entrusted to us in situations of extreme emergency. Their religious affiliation could not be deepened in a context that required above all to save their lives. Thus, 14 children whose Christian confession was recognized retrospectively were welcomed between 2004 and 2007 by a Muslim madrasa, typical of this region", continues the NGO.
"The 14 children have therefore grown up in the SOS village of Gode. Since 2014 they have been heard several times. Everyone was reminded that they could benefit from the organization's support in the practice of their faith or conversion to the Christian religion. They replied that they did not want to convert to Christianity, and we respected their requests", reads the note.
"Furthermore, Koranic education has never been integrated in the SOS school curriculum. The construction of a place of prayer was financed by local donations and not by our NGO. It was built on our land in contravention of our principles of independence and secularism. Today it is closed. SOS Children's Villages is closely following a project to build a mosque outside the village. This project is awaiting the necessary funds from the local community and will welcome children and Muslim religious personnel who wish to go there. Christian children have the same rights to respect their religious beliefs as well as everyone else. We made sure that everyone was welcomed by already identified Christian families.
Today - remarks the text sent to Fides - SOS Village of Gode "welcomes 120 children in a careful and respectful environment, supported by local authorities. In October 2017, there was a meeting between the representative of SOS Children's Villages International, the leaders of the organization for Ethiopia and the Bishop of the region of Harrar, in a spirit of tolerance, mutual and positive dialogue. The common goal was to do everything possible to avoid increasing the conflicts that have plagued the region for years where children are often the first victims". (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 8/1/2018)