Our Readers' Opinions
April 5, 2011
Children and the way God sees them

05.APR.11

EDITOR: This month has become a focus month on the plight of the abused child. There are, unfortunately, many in our society who are regularly and viciously abused by a parent or parents, neighbour, bully, family member or someone else. We, rightfully, recoil at the horrendous stories we hear of those who are abused and, in some cases, killed.{{more}} Fingers are quickly pointed and blame quickly apportioned, yet the soft underbelly of abuse and exploitation of our young continues, in some cases, unabated. We can rightly say that this hidden epidemic (not in the sense of a disease) is claiming the lives of many.

I do not possess local statistics, but some research has suggested that in the USA, three out of every four children abused are under the age of four, while 90% of the perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child in one capacity or the other. Chillingly, one in every three abused female children who lives to become an adult is in prison. Alarmingly, one child in every three abused, will continue the cycle of abuse when they become parents (http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics). Other sources have indicated that the abused child will in some way or the other be abused again.

As eye-opening as the statistics can be, we must take them with a pinch of salt. It is easy to see numbers and charts and figures, and easier to forget that we are talking about real lives that have been shattered. Across the world, we see children being abused in such horrendous fashion that it cripples every suggestion that humanity is in any way heading towards utopia. Across the world, the abuse of children ranges from physical beatings, neglect, involvement in wars as soldiers, pornography, human trafficking, child slavery and labour, and abandonment. What can be done?

The Solution

Not as easily implemented as suggested, yet something must be done. It is certainly within the scope of our political leaders to put in place laws and penalties, and the enforcement agencies to put these laws into practice. Yet, I sense the real cure has to be more widespread and individualistic. Foster care and adoption is one way that can offer help to a neglected child. I especially encourage Christians to consider this as an option. Someone I met recently has adopted over 15 children, as a small way of helping the children of parents who were killed in a civil war that broke out in her country. Even within our country, there have been those who have taken the bold and courageous step to give love and care to those desperately lacking it.

Hospitality is one of the spiritual gifts identified as belonging to the Church; the Christian community must use this gift to its utmost. I make a plea to all, to seriously consider taking a child into your home, either on a temporary or permanent basis. That child can be a family member or neighbour or a total stranger. Yes, I do know the challenges, the costs, the disruption to a set routine, the behavioural and health issues that may accompany this child, but the reward far outweighs the inconvenience. Thankfully, the legal ramifications for such a move are not too bureaucratic to put one off.

As good neighbours, it is important that we act when we see or hear or witness incidents of child abuse. The easy thing is, of course, to turn away, to not get involved. But a look at the life of Jesus showed a man who was willing to be involved in the lives of the ostracised, the disenfranchised, the hungry, the sick, the demonized and the spiritually dead and empty. A true Christian neighbour gets involved; the quickness to become aware of the spiritual deadness of the society around us should be second to the commands of Jesus. In those commands are wrapped up concern for the spiritually empty and dead and the physically empty and dying. Sensitivity to a decaying society presupposes sensitivity to God and his desire to reconcile the world to himself and restore the creation to harmony. One cannot exist without the other. Get involved, give a hand, stop abuse in ways you alone can.

Finally, as parents, we should love and care for our children; this means, amongst other things, being patient with their shortcomings and failures, offering support and help when needed and seeking to understand the challenges they face; and yes it does mean gentle correction. Shouting at your six year old, hurling obscenities at a pre-schooler, shoving your little child, are the acts of a coward and a path to non-humanness. You may have been abused as a child yourself; you may have problems meeting the challenges of life; you may be tired and angry and never seem to catch a break from anyone, but your child is not the person who caused it; hitting out at them would not help the situation. Ask for help – there are those who would gladly offer it.

Association of Evangelical Churches