Protect Children, Protect the Future
Pope Francis had often drawn attention to the plight of children victims of violence and abuse:
My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks…..
May the divine power [of Christ], by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness….. (Christmas 2014)
In this issue of Matthew 25, we are looking at some of the violence and abuse children are subjected in the world as well as in our country, and how can each one of us make a difference.
Children & Poverty
One billion children in the world are deprived of at least one basic necessity of life, such as food, clean water, shelter or healthcare. That means that instead of running, laughing and playing with friends, these children spend their formative years struggling to survive. Poverty affects every aspect of children’s lives. It limits their opportunities for education, puts them at risk for health problems and increases the likelihood that they’ll be subjected to child labor or early marriage, or force onto the streets because their family can no longer afford to care for them. Chances are they are hungry and at risk for malnutrition, underdevelopment and stunting, which can have serious health consequences later in life.
This is not only a problem in developing countries; it exists also here at our doorsteps! In the USA, children make up 23% of the population, but comprise 32% of all those living in poverty (25.8% for Texas). Children under 5 are the poorest in America with 47% living in poverty during these first crucial years of brain development. Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems, as well as poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for young children in persistent poverty.
Child abuse is a heartbreaking reality for many children living in poverty, and it comes in many forms physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional. Child abuse includes neglect and any forms of exploitation. This is not just an issue that happens in other countries, it happens also in the USA. Evidence shows that any form of abuse can have serious short- and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences not only for girls or boys, but also for their families and communities. This includes increased risks for illness, unwanted pregnancy, psychological distress, stigma, discrimination and difficulties at school.
Child victims of trafficking may be forced to work in sweatshops, on construction sites or in houses as domestic servants; on the streets as child beggars, in wars as child soldiers, on farms, in traveling sales crews or in restaurants and hotels. Some are forced to work in brothels and strip clubs or for escort and massage services. The United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Increasingly, the internet and mobile phones put children at risk.
Millions of children around the world are trapped in child labor, working long hours in hazardous conditions in agriculture, mining, domestic labor, and other sectors. They are exposed to extreme heat, toxic pesticides, toxic chemicals and other very dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Of course, there is work that children do to help their families in ways that are neither harmful nor exploitative, but many children are stuck in unacceptable work for children – a serious violation of their rights.
Child Soldier & Refugee
Armed violence is not confined to war; it occurs increasingly in non-conflict settings and it has a dramatic impact on children, their families, and their communities. Children affected by armed conflict can be injured or killed, uprooted from their homes and communities, internally displaced or refugees, orphaned or separated from their parents and families, subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, and at risk of becoming child soldiers. They become victims of trauma as a result of being exposed to violence; they are often deprived of basic needs such as shelter, food and medical attention
Because of wars, internal conflicts, gang violence and poverty, children and families are on the move at unprecedented numbers, creating the highest level of refugee children in the world since World War II. Many children will spend their entire childhoods away from home.
Causes, Effects and Solutions
There are numerous factors influencing violence and exploitation of children. Poverty emerges as the most compelling reason, but there are other factors such as conflicts, barriers to education, culture and tradition, market demand, discrimination, and inadequate/poor enforcement of legislation and policies to protect children.
Violence and exploitation of children deprive them of their childhood, their health and education, cause a severe and lasting impact on their development and often condemn them to a life of poverty and want.
Protecting children from violence and exploitation calls for actions to reduce poverty and make education affordable, creating awareness and advocating for governments policies helping and protecting poor and vulnerable children, and working for peace. By working to eliminate both causes and consequences, we can give kids everywhere a chance for a brighter future and thrive!
Whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:5-6)
Did You Know?
- 57 Million children around the world are out of primary school (Care)
- Everyday almost 2,000 children die from diseases linked to unsafe water and lack of sanitation (Care)
- 100 children younger than 5 years old suffer from malnutrition (Care)
- 3 to 10 million of children are exposed to domestic violence in the USA (NCTCN)
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle of abuse (childabuse.org)
- There are around 10 million children in the world victims of trafficking, including 750,000 in the USA (Ark of Hope for Children)
- In 2012 168 million children were engaged in child labor (ILO)
- Approximately half of the 19.5 million registered refugees globally are children and youth. (SOS Children Villages)
- Over the last ten years, two million children have been killed in conflict, one million orphaned, over six million have been seriously injured or permanently disabled (SOS Children Villages)
What Can You Do
Pray for the children facing violence and abuse, for an end to child trafficking, labor and slavery, for the victims and their families, and for all those working to eradicate these problems.
Learn about issues facing children by visiting some of these sites www.stopchildlabor.org, www.humantrafficking.org, www.freetheslaves.net, www.futureswithoutviolence.org, www.defenceforchildren.org, www.savethechildren.org, www.childrensdefense.org.
Advocate. Your voice makes a difference! Join advocacy groups such as www.confrontglobalpoverty.org, a campaign of Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to eradicate poverty in the world, a root cause of child labor and slavery, or www.childfund.org.
Support organizations working to help vulnerable children and their families such as Catholic Relief Services (www.crs.org), Oxfam (www.oxfam.org) and Catholic Charities (www.catholiccharitiesusa.org).
Sponsor a child in a developing country, providing for the education and basic needs of the child with Unbound at www.unbound.org.
Activities in Life, Justice and Charity at St. Mary’s
Volunteers needed for Voter Registration Drive deadline to sign up September 4th
As faithful citizens we are called to participate in the elections that decide who our leaders will be. You can easily register at the Voter Registration Drive taking place after every mass on Saturday September 24th and Sunday September 25th. In order to be able to help with Voter Registration, one needs to be trained by the Brazos Country. This training will be held Tuesday September 20th at 5:30 P.M. We will meet at St. Mary’s at 5:00 P.M. and carpool to the location of the training.
Space is limited for the training so register by Sunday September 4th at www.aggiecatholic.org/smapl to volunteers for the Voter Registration Drive!
Service Fair on Monday, September 12, 4:30 and 7:30pm in the student lounge
Anyone who is interested in mission work or giving a year for service, whether that be between school or after college; domestically or abroad, is invited to stop at the Service Fair to meet with some of the 20 organizations present.
St. Mary’s Mission Trips
Every year St. Mary’s offers various mission trips for students as one way to respond to the call to serve others, to serve Christ. This year, during spring break, one mission trip will travel to Honduras and the second trip will work in San Antonio. During May a third mission trip will go to Costa Rica. Check for more info at www.aggiecatholic.org/missiontrips.