Indifference is unacceptable. “We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering.”
Look closely at the faces of the children. Too often, there is crying, sorrow and pain. Every year, nearly 5.9 million children—about 16,000 a day—die before they are five years old, mostly from famine, war and disease. That’s over 20 children not yet of school age who die every single minute of every single day. Think about that! And for many who survive, the world is an ever more hostile place for them to grow up in. They are victims of all kinds of crime, abuse and neglect:
- At least 150 million children are exploited annually for labour, with 85 million doing hazardous work. Most are denied the opportunity for education, and all are deprived of their childhood.
- According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, over 300,000 children have been forced to take up arms and participate daily on the front lines of war, not just as victims, but as child soldiers. Children are abducted from their homes, indoctrinated in camps, subjected to violent treatment, used as human triggers for land mines, made sex slaves, and trained to be brutal warriors.
- In Eastern Europe, young girls are duped by sex-trafficking rings, thinking they have been hired as nannies, models or actresses. Others are kidnapped, and their stories are hideous and unimaginable.
- Sexual abuse and rape are common and usually not a single act, but an ongoing abusive relationship. Often the perpetrator is a family member or guardian who manipulates power and preys on vulnerability.
Remember, these are children we are talking about!
Somewhere in the world today, a child’s cry reaches heaven, and God looks for someone to stand in the gap. Indifference is an evil we cannot embrace. “For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted” (Psalm 9:12).
Consider what the Scriptures teach us about children. From beginning to end, children have a high place in the heart of God. First, they are a gift from God and deserve a place of honour in our families and communities. “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them(Psalm 127:3-5).
Many societies today continue to favour and provide advantages to boys over girls. The plight of the girl child in many Asian countries is a serious issue. Many are aborted, others are denied education, and some are given in marriage long before adulthood. A gift deserves better!
Second, God makes it clear that He will punish those who mistreat children. He is a “father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). To mistreat the vulnerable is to show contempt for their Father in heaven. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God”(Proverbs 14:31). Every child is a unique creation of God, made in His image, full of creative potential, and worthy of protection and care.
Third, Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16). People brought their children to Jesus, and when the disciples rebuked them, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14b). Jesus holds them up as examples of humble faith and simplicity. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
Here are three stories of changed destinies.
Today there is a young lady studying at McGill University on a full scholarship. She came from a home without opportunity for a good education. Lack of money marginalized her to schools without adequate supplies and teachers. But God made a way for her, and she came to Cornelius Hope Academy Secondary School at the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe. From the start, it was evident that she had a sharp mind as well as a lovely spirit. She aced school and applied for a highly competitive scholarship. God heard her mother’s cry and made a way for her.
God opened a door for a young man from Zambia to do graduate studies in China on a fully paid scholarship. After graduating from the Village of Hope School in Kitwe, Zambia, he studied at university and entered a writing competition. God heard his cries and opened a way for him to fulfil his God-given potential.
The plight of disabled children in the former Soviet Union is well documented. Often confined to orphanages and treated without respect or dignity, they had little hope for a normal life. When Christians show up and care, life can change significantly. One of these young orphans won a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in September 2016.
Each of these three young adults was given a lifeline through ChildCARE Plus, the child sponsorship program of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) and Emergency Relief and Development Overseas (ERDO). They received an education, loving care, and the opportunity to flourish. Each one is known by a global worker or trusted partner of the PAOC and ERDO. All three had the opportunity to hear the truth of the gospel and not only to change their earthly destiny, but also to have eternal hope through Jesus Christ. They are loved and transformed by the God who hears the cries of the afflicted.
Let me invite you to apply Christ’s invitation to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Often called the Golden Rule, this command of Jesus asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Imagine if you were one of the oppressed or abused children noted earlier. How would you wish to be treated? If there was someone who had the resources to help you, would you not be incredibly grateful if they chose not to turn an indifferent back to your plight?
Choose today to sponsor a child. The Good Samaritan was not a bystander. He stopped, stooped and saved! “Action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all.”
- Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on the Death of Elie Wiesel,” The White House, July 2, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/02/statement-president-death-elie-wiesel.
- “Life expectancy increased by 5 years since 2000, but health inequalities persist,” World Health Organization, May 19, 2016, http://who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/health-inequalities-persist/en.
- International Labour Organization, http://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang--en/index.htm.
- Children and Armed Conflict, https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org.
- Katie Reilly, “Read Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech,” TIME, July 2, 2016, http://time.com/4392267/elie-wiesel-dead-nobel-peace-prize-speech.