Pre-Summit Vigils Held for World’s Dying Children
NEW YORK (AP) _ Citizens in 83 countries lighted candles, tolled bells and chanted prayers in an appeal to world leaders to help save the 40,000 children who die each day from disease, crime, hunger and war.
The 2,600 sundown vigils around the globe Sunday came less than a week before more than 70 heads of state meet for the U.N. World Summit for Children. The summit aims to reduce death and suffering among children.
The vigils followed sunset around the globe, starting with scientists in Antarctica and continuing at refugee camps on the Somalian-Ethiopian border and at 200 Buddhist temples in South Korea.
More than 300 people rallied in front of the United Nations, where the summit convenes on Saturday.
Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., who attended the vigil, criticized President Bush for not acting on a U.N. treaty that guarantees basic health, education and human rights to the world’s children.
″There is no excuse for Bush not to have signed this,″ said Bradley, who sponsored a resolution asking the president to forward the treaty to the Senate for ratification. Bradley said his resolution passed the Senate by a unanimous voice vote Sept. 11.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly last year. To be ratified by the United States, the treaty must pass the Senate, then be signed by Bush.
More than 500 candlelight vigils took place in the United States.
In St. Paul, Minn., about 1,500 people, including many pre-schoolers, gathered on the steps of the state Capitol. They listened to speeches, music and a reading of Dr. Seuss’ ″Horton Hatches the Egg.″
In San Francisco, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig told a crowd of about 150 at City Hall he found it ″sickening ... that this society, with the riches that we have, can’t figure out a way to allow our youngsters to grow up in more decent conditions.″
In New York, the crowd listened to speeches, folk songs and prayers and stood for a moment of silence. In a corner of the plaza, six children knelt around candles and flowers.
″I’m here because there is starvation and death, because they don’t have enough food and they’re sick. We have to send food and medicines - and love,″ said Ryan DeVeaux, 10.
The number of child deaths due to disease could be cut in half by the year 2000 with the help of $2.5 billion - the amount of money spent in a year on cigarette advertising in the United States, said Barbara Charbonnet, coordinator of the New York vigil.