Facing the reality of violence against children

It is hard to fathom violence against children. How can anyone hurt a child? But we all know it happens in our neighborhoods and even in the homes of so-called “good, Christian people.”

These crimes close at hand make us cringe, and they are part of a global situation where violence against children continues to grow.

Today, I received a news release from the Baptist World Alliance with the headline, “Widespread violence against children.” I’m not really sure why BWA released this information now, but it reveals some maddening statistics about such violence. The release says:

“Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children suffer violence (UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2011). While these figures are frightening enough, broader statistics from UNICEF paint an even more depressing picture: Approximately 1.5 million children between 5 and 14 are involved in child labor; 1.2 million children have been trafficked each year since 2000; one million children are detained through justice processes; 18 million children are living with the effects of displacement; and 70 million females in 29 countries, many of them young girls, have experienced female genital mutilation or cutting.”

This is really too much to comprehend, at least for me. Numbers sterilize human tragedy. All I know is that it is hard to imagine such evil pertrated against children. The release continues:

“Further complicating a terrible picture for children in the world, child soldiers are a norm in several countries. A child soldier is ‘any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity’ (1997 UNICEF and NGO symposium in South Africa).

“Children were actively involved in armed conflict in government forces or non-state armed groups in 19 countries or territories between 2004 and 2007 (Human Rights Watch, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008). The Human Rights Watch report estimates that ‘although it is impossible to accurately calculate the number of children involved in armed forces and groups, it is clear that there are many tens of thousands of child soldiers. Child soldiers exist in all regions of the world.'”

I’m proud to be a Baptist when we, as a group, stand against such tragic circumstances. And we have stood against this through BWA, which has given direct and indirect assistance to combat this scourge through Baptist World Aid. BWAid has been involved in resettlement programs for displaced persons; refugee assistance; post-conflict healing and reconciliation programs; and assistance for war orphans.

Unfortunately, the “warnings and cautionary notes that the BWA has been declaring over the years are as relevant now as they have ever been,” the release says. “The state of children around the world, rather than improving, is getting worse in too many instances. In addressing these horrible facts, we Baptists should surely see ourselves being compelled by love to find the means to help these children.”

It is hard to face up to the ugliness in the world. It is even harder to act against it. Hardness, however, has never stopped good people from seeking to do what is right.

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