National Child Protection Week is from 27th May to 2nd June. National Child Protection Week (CPW) is commemorated in South Africa annually to raise awareness of the rights of children as articulated in the Children’s Act of 2005.
Compassion International, in their booklet “Children”, articulates the Biblical perspective and mandate for protecting children (between the ages of 0 and 18 years). This is their instruction :
Considering the tremendous value and importance of children, it is not surprising to also see strong statements in Scripture commanding the protection of children. We should be fierce in our defense of children from all forms of harm. Jesus made this clear when He spoke this stern warning:
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6, NIV 1984)
You can imagine Jesus calling a child into the middle of their conversation and telling the disciples that they must become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Imagine Jesus looking lovingly at the child on His lap and then turning with a fiery-eyed look toward His disciples as He issues such a severe warning. This is a powerful moment of child advocacy. Jesus is demanding that His disciples protect children. He is warning the child abuser. Jesus goes on to warn that those who “despise” children will provoke angelic beings who have direct access to God Himself!
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)
This concern for the well-being of children is not limited to Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. More than 30 passages in the Old Testament attest to God as the defender of the fatherless. Deuteronomy 10:18 remind us that God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the window…giving them food and clothing”7 God Himself is the defender of the fatherless. Therefore, those who wish to join God in His work must also become defenders of the fatherless. Tragically, God’s chosen people (Israel) not only failed to defend children, they committed the most grievous crimes against them.
The Bible teaches that God is outraged when children suffer from adult atrocities. In 2 Kings 16-17 we read that God mobilized Assyria, a pagan empire, to invade, conquer and haul Israel off into captivity because they “followed the practices of the nation” (17:8) and secretly did things against the LORD their God” (17:9). We are told that King Ahaz “sacrificed his son in the fire, following the practices of the nations” (16:3). And we are told that the people of Israel “sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire” (17:17) and later they “burned their children in the fire as sacrifices” to false gods (17:31).
CHILDREN ARE CREATED GIFTS OF GOD.
When those gifts were “sacrificed” by the very people entrusted with their care, God mobilized a pagan empire to punish His own chosen people. Such sin is intolerable to God. God has not changed, and He still detests the mistreatment of children. We must be vigilant to ensure that we are not sacrificing children to the false gods of our day. What God intended as a gift must not be abused or disregarded.
Not only are we to defend children from intentional acts of harm we are also told in Lamentations 2:19 to cry out for the children who are hungry and vulnerable.
Arise, cry in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the LORD. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from the hunger at every street corner.
God calls us to advocate: ”Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy”(Proverbs 31:8-9). Similarly, Psalms 82:3-4 teaches, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
The Scripture mandate to protect and defend children from injustice exploitation, abuse, deprivation and any other harm is crystal clear. Compassion’s child protection policies and practices are rooted in these biblical truths. Each child is a precious gift from God, and we have a responsibility to protect and nurture each other. Therefore, as is clear through Compassion’s Child Protection Curriculum, and we will not tolerate abuse of children in any form.
THE LAUSANNE CAPE TOWN COMMITMENT
The importance of children is gaining attention from leaders of the global Church. In 2010, thousands of Church leaders around the world gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, for the Third Lausanne Congress. Together they created “The Cape Town Commitment” of the Lausanne Movement. The following statements about the importance of children are included in that commitment.
All children are at risk. There are about 2 billion children in our world, and half of them are at risk from poverty. Millions are at risk from prosperity. Children of the wealthy and secure have everything to live with, but nothing to live for. Children and young people are the Church of today, not merely of tomorrow. Young people have great potential as active agents on God’s mission. They represent an enormous under-used pool of influencers with sensitivity to the voice of God and a willingness to respond to him. We rejoice in the excellent ministries that serve among and with children, and long for such work to be multiplied since the need is so great. As we see in the Bible, God can and does use children and young people – their prayers, their insights, their words, their initiatives – in changing hearts. They represent “new energy” to transform the world. Let us listen and not stifle their childlike spirituality with our adult rationalistic approaches.
We commit ourselves to:
- Take children seriously, through fresh biblical and theological enquiry that reflects on God’s love and purpose for them and through them, and by rediscovering the profound significance for theology and mission of Jesus’ provocation action in placing ‘a child in the midst’
- Seek to train people and provide resources to meet the needs of children worldwide, wherever possible working with their families and communities, in the conviction that holistic ministry to and through each next generation of children and young people is a vital component of world mission.
- Expose, resist and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and a wilful neglect.
Compassion International participated in shaping this commitment and strongly affirms these statements as an important declaration of the global Church. In keeping with our mission, Compassion will support the Church’s fulfilment of the “Cape Town Commitment.”
We appeal to all Parishes to place a special focus on our children during National Child Protection week and to reach out into our communities to perform acts of mercy and advocacy.
Here are at least the following 4 things a Parish can do:
- Pray for all children and especially those at risk. Use every occasion to offer a prayer for the vulnerable and those who need to be protected. Pray also for those who have to care for children.
- As a Church – SPEAK OUT and advocate for the rights of children. Include the plight of children in each sermon, speech and teaching.
- Report cases of abuse, abduction and neglect to the relevant authorities. Every Parish should have a list of agencies where cases can be reported.
- Support the victims of crime and abuse. Reach out and care for those who suffer including their families.
We also remind everybody of the important priority of the Archbishop\s Vision 2020 which re-inforces the need for the Church to nurture and protect our children. The full information of this priority can be read – HERE.
Tony Lawrence (Provincial Youth Council)
A Prayer for National Child Protection Week:
you said let the children come to me.
The hurt felt by those wounded by abuse weighs heavily upon us.
Often trust has been eroded when institutions failed to appropriately respond to their needs.
Lord, we as your Church stand in need of your healing and help. We ask you God, to strengthen and guide all in our communities.
Grant us wisdom in our time to make decisions that protect children and the vulnerable. May our families and communities, through love, generosity, commitment and patience build stronger communities safe for children.
Let your grace and love fall gently upon our children giving them the inner strength, peace and resilience they will need for their life’s journey.
We ask you God to help our communities to be resolute in building communities where our children both flourish and are safe.
We pray this all through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Written by Revd Canon Calvin S Frans (Provincial Youth Chaplain)