The Innocents

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most harrowing images I saw this week were of the parents of Peshawar, keening for their lost boys. They reminded me of this Old Testament passage:

This is what the LORD says:

    “A voice is heard in Ramah,
        mourning and great weeping,
      Rachel weeping for her children
        and refusing to be comforted,
        because her children are no more.”

                                               – Jeremiah 31:15

There was a woman outside the school, collapsing against her friend upon hearing the news. There was a father, by the look of him an educated man, now driven to dumb gestures by his bereavement. There was a man in the hospital, erupting into a rage – a seismic fury that despite its force ultimately had no power except to protest this utterly senseless outrage. And rightly so. Such things must never be allowed to dwindle into a subfuscous silence.

Children used to prove a vengeful point. Burgeoning lives clipped, without hesitation or qualm, methodically and as cold-blooded as can be. I cannot understand this. This is heinous folly. Because those killers considered their own lives nothing, they counted those young lives for nothing. To them these children were mere commodities. The more pain they could barter for them, the better.

I think of the children of Mindanao, the southernmost island in my country, the Philippines. That region has been riven by tribal warlords, religious extremists, secessionists, rebels, communists, and the private armies of politicians for over 40 years now, since I myself was a child. Not all provinces in Mindanao are in turmoil. A large swathe of it is peaceful and prosperous and safe. However, that part which is wartorn – that part has seen its children herded from village to village for shelter from the guns and machetes, and from the hatred that wields them. The warriors in their vindictive bloodlust never draw the line. There are no innocents in their brutal campaign. Meanwhile, the children huddle together in borrowed bedding strewn on the floors of hospitable strangers. They are by themselves; their parents have left them to protect their villages, perhaps never to be seen again.

In the Visayas and Luzon, certain cities have become centers for a cybersex trade that panders especially to foreign perverts. Children as young as 18 months are sexually exploited and abused for the viewing pleasure of the paying pedophile. In Manila, half a year ago, toddlers were snatched from their yards or from playgrounds, to be sold or used; some were found dead. A few months ago, a 9-year old girl was sent to the store by her mother; she never came back. She was later found in a rice paddy, raped and beaten and killed. An 11-year old left her mother for an instant to buy a soda from a convenience store. She disappeared. She was found two days later spread-eagled in a nearby cemetery, raped and manhandled, her head bashed in with a rock.

There are ineffably horrific crimes, such as was done in Peshawar, and globally tears are shed for the fallen innocents. But there are egregious crimes against children such as I have listed here that happen daily in places unheard of by the world. They happen in my country but elsewhere too. Who will weep for those lost innocents? Who will seek justice for their cause? In the melee of geopolitics, amid the roar of armies deploying to hotspots worldwide, in the swirl of rising and falling economies, will they even be remembered?

Children should not have to be the ransom for their elders’ hijacked morals. If global society fails to wage peace, all our children will pay the price.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

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