At the start of the Three Kings' Singing Campaign 2012, around 3.000 children dressed as "Magi" from all over Germany paraded through Mainz singing. "We want to be close to the children all over the world and build bridges", with these words Cardinal Karl Lehmann welcomed the carol singers in front of the Mainz Cathedral. Under the motto "Knock on doors, insist on rights!"This year, the carol singers want to draw attention to the rights of children in Nicaragua.
In a celebratory service, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz called children and young people witnesses of Jesus. The carol singing campaign is about building bridges to children around the world, Lehmann said. He praised the "great solidarity" of the carol singers and encouraged them in line with this year's motto "Knock on doors, insist on rights!" to knock even on closed doors.
World's largest aid initiative by child for child
The carol singing campaign is the world's largest aid initiative by children for children in need. The campaign is sponsored by the Aachen-based children's missionary organization "Die Sternsinger" and the Association of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ). In the period around Epiphany, 6. January, about half a million girls and boys dressed as Magi go from house to house nationwide. They are collecting donations and offering the blessing "Christus mansionem benedicat" ("Christ bless this house").
"The money collected will help many children around the world," emphasized BDKJ President Simon Rapp. Currently, more than 2.000 projects supported in 110 countries. The motto of the campaign "Knock on doors, insist on rights!" should make clear that the rights of children must be implemented and respected everywhere in the world, said the president of the Kindermissionswerk, Klaus Kramer.
target country Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, the target country of the 54. Sternsingeraktion, often no one cares about the rights of children. According to a study, more than half of all minors suffer violence within their own families. 14 percent of the boys and girls surveyed report sexual assault. Child labor is widespread in Central America's second poorest country. More than 600.000 children, about 23 percent of all girls and boys under 15, worked in 2008. Around one million children do not attend school.
Nine-year-old Ricardo from Juigalpa is lucky to be able to go to school since he no longer lives with his family. When he still lived at home, he and his three siblings had to go begging. If the children did not bring home enough money, they had to sleep on the streets. Ricardo's parents were often drunk. At some point, they left their children alone, and Ricardo lived on the street for a while. He found a new home in a center for boys and girls. The facility is supported by the carol singers.
Help for self-help
It is mainly projects like these in Nicaragua that the two organizers, the children's missionary organization "Die Sternsinger" and the Association of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), support with the donations they collect. There are self-defense courses designed to make girls strong and self-confident, in which they learn to protect themselves from assaults. Or a radio program broadcast throughout Nicaragua, in which children educate listeners about the rights of boys and girls; for example, the right to food, education and physical integrity.
The children in Nicaragua and the carol singers in Germany are united by their common commitment to the well-being of girls and boys – even if this task is not always easy. In the Central American country, as in the Federal Republic, the children are repeatedly faced with closed doors. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, half a million children and young people in Germany will once again parade through the streets dressed up as the Three Wise Men this year. "To enforce law and justice, you need perseverance and courage," says BDKJ president Simon Rapp. "Sometimes you have to fight for your ideals."
Cardinal Lehmann: convincing ambassadors of the church
The campaign, which has been running since 1959, has so far raised around 772 million euros for projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceania and Eastern Europe. Cardinal Lehmann described the campaign as a success story. The carol singers are "convincing ambassadors of the church" because they bring the good news of the incarnation of God to the people. There is also no shortage of public appearances by the carol singers. On 1. January, 23 of them from the diocese of Wurzburg celebrate the New Year's Day service with Pope Benedict XVI. in St. Peter's Basilica. As the Kindermissionswerk announced, three children in their carol singing costumes bring the gifts to the altar during the service. On 5. January, carol singers from all German dioceses are guests of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). The following day, on 6. January, Federal President Christian Wulff will receive a delegation of 55 carol singers from the diocese of Essen in his Berlin official residence, Schloss Bellevue.