Washington (BWA)--In virtually all parts of the world violent incidents against children are on the increase. It is worse in areas of armed conflicts and violence.
This is a tragedy that all concerned Christians need to address.
The statistics are grim. 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.
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."
Baptists will not want to ignore these statistics. It behooves Christians everywhere to do the right thing by all children to protect them against systemic and sporadic violence.
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA), for several decades, has sought to lead Baptists to be fully engaged in the quest to end violence against children. The BWA has given direct and indirect assistance to combat this scourge through Baptist World Aid, such as through resettlement programs for displaced persons; refugee assistance; post-conflict healing and reconciliation programs; and assistance for war orphans.
The BWA, in a 2002 resolution, lamented "that a large percentage of the world's children suffer various forms of violence," and encouraged Christians to "support policies ending abusive practices against children." In 2000, the BWA urged its own member organizations "to oppose the sexual exploitation of children wherever it exists and to provide aid and comfort to the children who are the victims of such abuse." And in 1989, a BWA resolution declared that Baptist conventions and unions around the world should "make themselves more aware of the harsh and apparently unloving world into which many children are born," noting that "children have been tortured, sentenced to death, recruited into armed service and physically abused."
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 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.