Third Quarter, 2001
Ending violence against children
Working toward a world where children are safe

Our challenge, as Christians, is to help children and parents achieve what God intended for them. - Dean Hirsch

AS A CHRISTIAN relief and development organisation, World Vision finds its inspiration in the teachings of Jesus, who tells us that we have worth because God loves us. We affirm that
worth by caring for one another, by loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. Children - our children and our neighbours' children - have equal claim to that love.

Jesus makes this very clear. When his disciples tried to scare away the children, Scripture tells that Jesus became indignant. "Let the children come to me," he said, "do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mark 10:14)

God's sovereignty over children surpasses the authority of parents, especially parents who abuse their authority by neglecting, mistreating, exploiting or victimising their children. Sadly, parents who abuse their children are all too common. Indeed, most violence against children occurs in the home. And, when children are victimised outside the home, parents are often guilty of complicity or neglect or sheer desperation.

In my work with World Vision, I have met children whose parents sold them into bonded labour or prostitution. I have talked to children who were seized from their homes and forced to carry weapons or serve as sex slaves for rebel troops. I have had children tell me how they were beaten, tortured, and deprived of food or sleep by the bosses and pimps who became their de facto parents. And I have also experienced the ecstasy of children weeping for joy because they have been rescued from slavery, bondage, misery or depravation.

These fortunate children have regained the basic rights that God intended for all human beings. Children are equally entitled to what we treasure for ourselves: A loving home with the right to food, shelter, education, health care, and economic opportunity.

The Gospel asks Christians to ensure that children, "the least among us", are afforded these basic human rights. So does the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a landmark, decade-old document signed by virtually every country in the world. The Convention affirms the role of good parents and sound families as the best context in which children can realise their potential. Our challenge, as Christians, is to help children and parents achieve what God intended for them.

In conjunction with the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, World Vision begins a campaign this year called 'A Safe World for Children: Ending Abuse, Violence and Exploitation'. The campaign's purpose is to heighten awareness of children's rights, and urge governments to adopt measures that will prevent violence against children. Many of the measures we advocate are simple: Helplines. Better training of welfare and law enforcement agencies that deal with children. Church, community and civil society partnerships to promote prevention, protection and rehabilitation of children from violence.

Our efforts are focused on keeping children safe from: 1) child abuse and neglect; 2) violence in the home; 3) sexual exploitation; 4) armed conflict; and 5) HIV/AIDS. We are inviting the children in the many poor communities in which we work to be full participants in this process. And we invite you and all other people of good will to join us in helping create a global movement for children.

I believe that World Vision, UNICEF, and other child-focused agencies can make a big difference in the lives of children. I believe we can help do for children what the environmental movement did for the environment. And, I believe that children, in their innocence, joy, and awe, will lead us closer to the kingdom of God. 

Dean Hirsch is International President of World Vision.

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