No. 50, 19 February 2007
by Denton Lotz
Jesus said, “Whoever receives one in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:5-6
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belong the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
Baptists have always affirmed children. It was the Baptist deacon, William Fox, who began the Sunday School Society in 1785 to remedy the horrors of the industrial revolution which had children as young as ten years of age working underground in mines 12 hours a day for six days a week.
Today, it seems the situation of children worldwide has become worse. In October of 2006, the Untied Nations released the first ‘UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children.’ After reading this document, Christians and men and women of good will should become angry and energized to work to stop child abuse.
Here are some of the tragic statistics from the United Nations Report of the Independent Expert for the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children:
1. Almost 53,000 children died worldwide in 2002 as a result of homicide.
2. Up to 80% to 98% of children suffer physical punishment in their homes, with a third or more experiencing severe physical punishment resulting from the use of implements.
3. 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence during 2002.
4. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. In sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, and the Sudan, three million girls and women are subjected to genital mutilation every year.
5. In 2004, 218 million children were involved in child labor, 126 million of whom were in hazardous work.
6. Estimates from 2000 suggest that 1.8 million children were forced into prostitution and pornography, and 1.2 million were victims of trafficking.
Christians cannot remain silent in the face of these horrendous and evil acts against children whom Jesus loves! What should Christians do? Here are some suggestions:
1. Be informed. Check the United Nations website: “The United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children.” (www.violencestudy.org)
2. At church meetings and Sunday School teachers’ workshops, make parents aware of signs of child abuse.
3. Check with local authorities and police about laws protecting children from child abuse. Report instances of child abuse to responsible authorities.
4. Make the church a safe haven for abused children. We should be aware that because of their abusive treatment, such children often become abusers themselves.
5. Work with other churches, schools and local government authorities to educate the public and your church congregation about these evils.
Warning: Child abuse is a secret sin. Few people know what happens in homes. The fact that one in four women is abused at home before she is 18 years of age is an indication of the extent of the problem!
Child abusers in churches need to be confronted and helped by counseling and discipleship groups to prevent future abusive behavior. Do not allow untrained and inexperienced counselors to hold leadership positions.
False accusations can poison relationships and fellowship. Public accusations without proper follow-through with authorities can cause even further abuse of children at home.
The call of Christ is a call to conversion, repentance and healing. The abused and the abuser need to know and experience God’s love in Christ. They need to know of regeneration that is offered to those who truly repent. At the same time, we need to be aware that there are sick and dysfunctional people that need to be institutionalized and kept out of reach of innocent children!
Finally, a renewed movement of Bible Study and Sunday School among children and youth will give greater opportunity to bring security, redemption and healing to a world of sexual aberration flamed by the evil institution of pornography and sexual slave traders.
The church must not remain silent. The future of our children depends upon the church’s prophetic ministry of confronting and preventing child abuse in Jesus’ name!
Denton Lotz is General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. This article first appeared in BWA News, February 2007.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Soundings is a publication of the Centre for Christian Ethics, edited by Rod Benson. Soundings welcomes submissions of up to 1000 words that seek to facilitate debate and explore issues of religion, ethics and public policy in Australia and internationally. Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for acceptable essays. Columns may be quoted or republished in full, with attribution to the author of the column, Soundings, and the Centre for Christian Ethics, Morling College, Sydney Australia. Views expressed in Soundings articles are not necessarily those of the Centre for Christian Ethics, Morling College or the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT.