I was born and grew up in Australia. At an early age I understood what it was like to live in a peaceful country. I had a family who loved me. I was fed. I was warm. I got an education. I knew the freedom of riding my bike to school. I was safe to explore my neighbourhood and walk to a friend’s place to play. I never heard gun shots or feared for my life. I never had to scavenge for food. I had a family who looked out for me. But this is not the story of many children today across the world. So, the question I ask is ‘what about the children’?
A world of fear, poverty and pain
The world is facing a one in a hundred-year pandemic. The COVID-19 virus surreptitiously moves around the world, travelling with a companion called fear. It goes to the hearts of people, causing grief about what is ahead.
But worse than that, children are growing up in a world facing fear, poverty, and pain. There are 385,000 babies born each day. That is, around 140 million children born globally every year. The question to ask is ‘what about the children’?
The high price of war and unstable government
War-torn countries are living in fear without comfort. There is suffering of pandemic proportions. Conflict and violence become the dominant perpetrator.
Throughout the world there is famine, disease, unsafe sanitation, floods, hurricane’s, earthquakes, and fire. World Vision estimates that every 10 seconds a child is dying from undernutrition.
The faces of children tell their story. Tears form streams down dusty cheeks. But the fear, the suffering, the pain, are unseen by many – adults with their eyes wide open. There are perpetrators whose only way of survival is to first inflict pain on others. They believe they are protecting themselves. But are they protecting a corrupt ideology? Are they deceived?
In Afghanistan, parents with fear in their eyes throw their children over walls to safety. But is safety in the arms of someone else? With fear, suffering and turmoil all around what is imprinted in a child’s mind? In a child’s heart? Is suffering the only roadmap for many children in today’s world?
Through the lens of compassion
A camera lens tells the story of what is happening in other countries, such as Afghanistan. But we need a lens of compassion, in a united world. But whatever lens we look through such a world cannot be found. Something is lacking in our human condition.
We do not need politicians who will say what is ‘politically’ correct. We need leaders of countries to do what is right, what is compassionate, generous, and humane.
There is too much introspection. Countries enact their sovereign rights and close their borders. It is akin to a family who isolates themselves. But they are caught up in a deception that locking others out will keep them safe and secure.
Humanity is a collective. There is a Chinese proverb that says, ‘The gem cannot be polished without friction.’ People are living stones. The friction comes from relating to others and respecting difference. But the stone is only partially polished if there is no compassion and generosity. A polished stone only shines where there is freedom. Where there is no slavery, or torture, or degrading treatment. People have rights to live in peace and the right to life and liberty. The right to personal safety.
Children need to be taught to think for themselves. But before this they need an education. They need to read and to read widely. Not to centre their world on themselves but to live with tolerance. And to respect others of any colour and race. They must be taught to live with compassion, responsibility, and integrity. But first they need food and shelter.
Children growing up in fear and hate will always see the other person as the enemy. If that grows unabated, it is impossible to eliminate. It becomes a way of life. Such a person is always seeking retribution. Fear and hatred are not constructive, they are destructive. Even in countries that live under a rule of law today we find lawless children. We see it in Australia through the juvenile courts.
Children must be taught how to live lives without violence, without weapons, such as guns. Guns are not trophy’s. Lives are not trophy’s. Children’s lives are sacred. People’s lives are sacred. Everyone deserves dignity, protection, honour, and safe passage in life.
Compassion for refugees
There are thousands of people from Afghanistan who came by boat whom the Australian Federal Government refuses to give permanent citizenship. What about the 14-year-old boy who came to Australia as refugee on a boat? He is now 25 years old. Eleven years in Australia, and nine years of his life on a temporary protection visa. What about his children? Will they see themselves as second-class citizens – not good enough? Will they hate the country who gave them safe harbour? What will they do with their hatred?
Yes, the boat people came into Australia through the back door. But now they are here. They are contributing to our way of life; in every way they are Australian citizens. But no, they only have a temporary protection visa. Is that how they will live the rest of their life? Where is the compassion? Where is the humanity?
Again, I ask the question, ‘what about the children’?