BY HANNAH BARR
The last thing I listened to last night was audio from inside a US Customs and Border Protection Facility. It was children, crying, wailing. Ten Central American children who have been separated from their parents, screaming “Mami” and “Papa” over and over again.
It was haunting. It was heart-breaking.
The first thing I read this morning was an article about hygiene poverty facing primary school children in the UK. Children who arrive at school unwashed, in dirty clothes, who risk being ostracised because of their unkempt appearance. Their teachers have gone above and beyond to supply them with toothbrushes and clean uniforms, and in one case, actually bought a washing machine for one family with a new-born baby.
Again, it was haunting and it was heart-breaking.
Meanwhile, a small friend of mine is going to be turning one year old next week. This small friend has no idea just how much she is loved. How, whenever she enters a room, everyone stops to look at her, welcomes her, watches with fascination as she explores the world around her (mainly via the medium of putting random objects in her mouth).
And having listened yesterday to her gurgles and giggles, the juxtaposition with the cries of a child in a cage fill me with sickness and rage.
In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet says, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31: 15)
It was written in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Those who were taken captive, were collected in Ramah, a city in ancient Israel that was land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, before they were moved to Babylon. Rachel, the ancestress of the tribe of Benjamin, was the woman who begged of her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”(Genesis 30: 1).
As the Benjamites in Ramah are taken captive, she figuratively weeps in the face of childlessness. Jeremiah’s words are heard for a second time, in Matthew’s Gospel, after Herod orders the massacre of first-born sons.
At Viva, we very deliberately focus on the positive. When we tell our stories through words and pictures, we do not choose the voyeuristic, we have no wish to make our supporters ‘tragedy tourists’ with pictures of desperate-looking children and tales of unrelenting woe.
Viva means ‘life’. The God we love and serve is the God who breathed all life into being – that’s what we celebrate and that promise of life to the full is what we strive to see realised for the children we work with around the world: in 27 countries, 38 networks, impacting 2.2 million children last year.
But sometimes, you just have to get angry. When you want to see life and all around you is death, you have to weep and you have to mourn and you have to refuse to be comforted.
It’s the God-given fire in your belly to rail against injustice to look at the situation facing children – God’s perfect, beautiful, precious children – and say this is not okay.
This is not life. This is not childhood. This is not following the law to love God and love our neighbour. Refuse to be comforted by the sinful status quo, it’s not comfort, it’s merely thin placation.
Our children deserve better. They deserve our outrage fuelled into activism. They deserve our refusal to let anyone see them and treat them as anything other than human beings with innate, God-ordained dignity and value. They deserve life.
Are you outraged at the injustices facing children too and want to do something about it?
Viva works to safeguard children against abuse, neglect and exploitation and to ensure that all children are cared for in a way that will enable them to reach their full potential.
You can help us to protect children around the world, and to give them the life that they deserve, by supporting our work.
Start a regular gift – and your ongoing support will help us to inspire lasting change in children’s lives.
Make a one-off donation – and your generosity today will help us to change a child’s future tomorrow.
Photos: Dmitry Ratushny, Anna Kolosyuk