How early should children be exposed to religion?

There is a Kiswahili proverb that says: Mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo. It basically means that the child will grow to be what you raised them to be. 

There is a Kiswahili proverb that says: Mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo. It basically means that the child will grow to be what you raised them to be. 

It’s a fact that all aspects of a person’s life; be it good or bad habits, character and piety are normally shaped during their formative years. The way a person was fashioned during these years will highlight itself when they become an adult.

In this light, we should ask ourselves if we are really giving our children the right spiritual nourishment when growing up. How many parents today let their children accompany them to church, or mosque? How many read their children scriptural verses before they sleep? How may tell them about God?

The absence of spiritual or religious upbringing will abidingly manifest itself in a person’s character. Research has proved that children are particularly receptive to spiritual impressions. They are normally amenable to all that’s opening the meaning and beauty of life.  

When you deny a child this spiritual nourishment, he or she is going to feel unsecure and lonely in this dark, cold world. Conversely, when you look at a number of people who are highly successful in life, you discover that most of them were raised in secure, hardworking families and in religious tradition.

However, today many parents are abdicating their roles in ensuring that the children are brought up in pious tradition. They are either too busy working hard to provide for the family while some just don’t care about religion. Some spend odd times in bars and social circles that they forget that it’s their responsibility to teach their children religious matters.

Rwanda is still preaching forgiveness and reconciliation 20 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi. Unfortunately, there are still parents in our midst that are indoctrinating their children with immoral teachings like Genocide ideology instead of spiritual matters. The country has made great strides since that dark period and it would be morally wrong to bring up children who would turn out to be the next generation of bloodthirsty hounds.

John Habimana, an Anglican clergy in Remera points to the biblical occasion when Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him. In Mark 10:13-16, the scripture says, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

This, the man of cloth points out, is a clear testimony of the soft spot Jesus had for children. It is a model parents should adopt when bringing up their young ones.

“It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of parents. Teachers, religious leaders and the whole society in general should be involved in ensuring children grow up knowing God. That’s the only way to follow when we want to bring up a morally and spiritually upright generation.”

Bishop Alexender Mileant, in The Upbrining of Children says: The main point is that faith in God is the key to the development of all the positive qualities in a child - piety, love, compassion, sensitivity, repentance and the wish to improve. No need to say more.

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