Teach children to love not hate
Children with guns
We love and cherish our children; we live in a civilised part of the world where the mores of christianity and a lawful way of life are generally observed. Most people have faith
in our leaders and institutions to do right by and protect their people from harm. Sadly, we know from what we hear, see and read each day, that there are other parts of our world in which bringing up a child is extremely dangerous; where the 'norm' is an
existence of constant fear, a fight for suvival; where 'to love one another' is the furthest thought from minds in constant turmoil and paranoia. Syria, the Ukraine, Indonesia, many parts of Central Africa, India and Pakistan immediately spring to mind, with
images of 'child soldiers' bearing arms, a deadly undercurrent to the daily mayhem. But would it shock you to know that young children in one of the most civilised and 'free' parts of the world, play with customised rifles while cuddling their dolls and teddy
Children at War
In our monthly intention for August 2015 - Praying for children who are trafficked - we asked how could any person defend himself or herself against recruiting or abducting
a child as young as nine to use a firearm; or to permit images of boy soldiers on television, smiling and firing off full magazines; and claim that they were not exploiting them for the promotion of a specific cause? We invited you to view thousands of pictures
of child soldiers on the internet, and try to remain impassive. Arguably the world's most effective assault rifle, the AK-47, can be stripped and reassembled by a child of 10. Besides being able to use lethal weapons, children are easier to intimidate and
they do as they are told. They are also less likely than adults to run away and they do not demand salaries.
"Being new, I couldn't perform the very difficult exercises properly and so I was beaten every morning. Two of my friends in the camp died because
of the beatings. The soldiers buried them in the latrines. I am still thinking of them"
Over the last ten years, two million children have been killed in conflict, over one million have been orphaned, six million have been seriously injured or permanently
disabled and over ten million have been left with serious psychological trauma. What must it be like to be battle-hardened at ten-years of age, without parents, brothers, sisters; or to be living in the hell of shell-fire, explosions and constant gun-battles?
“My squad is my family, my gun is my provider, and protector, and my rule is to kill or be killed.”
How do you cope with being seriously maimed, being homeless, starving, subjected to abuse? As you go 'on-the-run', what hopes do you harbour
of a loving, safe, home environment? Children are, due to their physical constitution and growth, most vulnerable to being deprived of food, medical assistance and education, which has a severe and lasting impact on their development. (cf SOS Childrens Villages)
Children with Guns
But pictures of children bearing arms are not confined to some of the most war-torn parts of the world. Compare the following two images:
The first photograph is of
a 7 year-old boy, from the U.S.A., bearing a customised child's rifle, which can shoot small, but real bullets. The boy's biggest fear is 'bears'. The second photograph is of a boy soldier in Africa, carrying what appears to be an adult weapon, presumably
with full, deadly capabilities. Which image do you find most unsettling?
In the U.S.A. a child or teen dies from a gun every 3 hours and 28 minutes. Guns killed more children under 5 in 2014 than law enforcement officers in the line of duty. There are
as many guns as people in the U.S.A.
Two distinguished legal scholars, Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, in their book, Crime Is Not The Problem: Lethal Violence In America Is, bluntly stated their conclusion: "What is striking about the quantity
of lethal violence in the United States is that it is a third-world phenomenon occurring in a first-world nation."
Fear is (fuelling) the key
Is fear at the heart of why parents bear weapons
and pass the customs to their children? Of course, there are also power struggles; reclaiming that which is rightfully yours; religious differences (which includes power and reclamation)...but fear is never far from these reasons. Most frightening perhaps
is the irrational factor of fear. Growing up in fear of the bogeyman, and perhaps never growing out of that? How do you counter the - some would argue - rational fears of parents, living in 'first-world' nations, that the world is full of bad people; and that
they must teach their children to use and own firearms, to protect themselves?
What is the solution?
Look at Ireland. Our little country has suffered invasions, foreign rule, famine, partition,
internecine strife, economic depression. Yet, we survive. We cannot claim to be perfect; we still have our faults. Ours is a continuous work in progress, as it should be. We have received assistance from time to time, which by all accounts we have paid back
with interest. But without a grounding in our basic beliefs and principles, and more importantly, without a constant renewal and application of them to every facet of our lives, we would not survive.
Ireland is still, mostly a Christian country, with
Christian beliefs and traditions of peace, friendship and love. The part played by the 'gun' in our turbulent history, is acknowledged in our strict firearms laws and regulations, which forbids the proliferation of such weapons of destruction; there are no
exceptions for individual counties. Being ruled for centuries by Kings, despots and foreign invaders has thought us the importance and necessity of living as a democratic people, with equal rights for all. Deep down, we trust in our constitutionally appointed
institutions and forces to protect us.
Urging people to pray for children is the very heart of this blog. In our monthly intentions over the years, we have highlighted specific
issues and areas of concern relating to the protection of all children. We remind you of just some of those in the context of how children with guns is anathema to our beliefs and values:
A New Beginning
In our December intentions of 2014 and 2015 - Thy Will be Done - we highlighted the opportunity to begin anew with one intention; the necessity to preserve the youngest and most vulnerable of lives.
In our January 2015 intention - Touching the Core of the Human Spirit - we underlined the awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons, including ready access to food, clothing, housing; and their rights to freely choose their state of life and set
up a family... If your activities are an affront to the dignity of others, then they are wrong; and not just to the people around you, but to you, yourself.
The Holy Family
In our April 2015
intention - The Holy Family - we stated our belief that the Holy Family had been for us the ultimate symbol for a worshipping, caring, guiding, loving, inspiring and safe place in which to grow. Through Mary, our 'Mother of Mercy' we had a beacon of devotion
to a son's cause onto his death and resurrection.
Jesus, love and little children
Suffer little children who come onto me. This was one of His most profound statements. Jesus preached and
practised love for one another, especially children. One can imagine how the sight of defenceless infants, being held back by parents who did not understand, must have moved Him to utter these heartfelt words. Do not hold back your children from embracing
the teachings of love, peace and understanding. Do not teach them how to shoot and kill in their defence. Bring your children up in a loving family unit. Where there is a spark of humanity and decency, even in the most degraded of places, fan it, protect it.
“If we don't harness their potential for good, their societies will continue to reap their capacity for evil.”
Wars must be over and the truces must leave no hatreds
unresolved. Communities must be re-built - they have been before - on the foundations of peace, love and understanding. Everyone must be equal and the good that is in our children must be nurtured, and harnessed and steered in the right direction. Teach children
how to love and not to fight.
Former child soldier interviewed in 2002: Voices of Children,
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Lemondeentier.net - 400 x 338, Child Soldiers in Africa. - Le Monde...
Pg 191, The Common Good, Vatican Council II, Costello Publishing Company, 2007
Roméo Dallaire, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers
Love little children
It is right to give God thanks and praise. This month, our prayer is one of thanksgiving to God for His wonderful gift of children. Those of us who are chosen to have children, are inspired in our commitment to their care,
by the devotion shown by our Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph to their son, our Lord Jesus Christ, within the context of the Holy Family. It was a devotion which endured, from the very beginning to the end and beyond, throughout the harshest and cruellest
of circumstances. As parents, as adults we must love our children and support them, even when our lives, our beliefs are challenged. But why should we, as mere mortals continue to sacrifice our own dreams and wordly aspirations, to ensure the happiness and
wellbeing of our children?
The baby Jesus
Jesus was born to a mortal, Mary, and reared in domestic and natural circumstances, within a family, He didn't just appear, fully grown and formed, as a powerful entity. God realised
that if He was to be accepted, then His natural love and empathy for all humans, even those who disbelieved, must be manifested amongst them in the recognisable form of baby, child, teenager, man.
The selection of Mary, herself a young virgin, to be
the mother of His child, and Joseph to be His earthly father, was such an important part of this fulfillment. God realised that for centuries after the Holy birth, His people would still need that vision of a helpless baby, loved, protected and worshipped
by devoted parents, against great odds, to instill in them the strength and belief to never give up, to never stop believing in life itself.
Persecution of children
His life as documented for us in the Bible, was to say the least,
challenging for Jesus. His parents suffered unwanted hardship prior to and after his birth, taking flight to save their very lives shortly after he was born. His was not to be a sheltered, glorified existence on this earth, in golden temples or palaces, worshipped
by all and sundry. No, He had a humble upbringing, incumbent with certain deprivation which such a life invariably brings.
There are times when the wilfull persecution of children can be indistinguishable from the indifference to their suffering due
to the consequences of our actions. Over the existence of this blog, we have highlighted the crimes that have continued unabated against babies and children, from abortion, starvation, deprivation, and death due to wars, and other policies fed by the wordly,
selfish desires of mankind. Again, we can draw the parallels between these times and those in which Jesus Christ was born and lived. It is surely part of the divine purpose.
Jesus and children
The Virgin Mary was blessed amongst
women, but she was as human as any mother. And it was those qualities which her son appreciated, as she continually made sacrifices for Him. The love for her child was reflected in his own feelings for little children. But there was a far greater significance
in his teachings to his disciples on how those most vulnerable and dearest to us, should be treated.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus teaches us that unless we turn/change and 'become like little children' we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is not
necessary to have influence, power, control or standing in society. As a little child has none of these accomplishments, and is completely dependent upon his or her parents, so too must we trust 'in a loving Father, a trust that awaits everything and grabs
at nothing.' Jesus goes on to say: 'Whoever, therefore humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'. But Jesus also stresses the need to behave towards the 'little ones' in the right way, as much as becoming like a little
child. 'Whoever accepts one such little child in my name, accepts me.' This much is beautifully re-emphasised in Jesus and the Children. The people were bringing children to him for the laying on of hands. His disciples rebuked the people, and this in turn
angered Jesus into making one of his most emphatic declarations: 'Let the little children alone and do not prevent them coming to me: for of such as these is the kingdom of heaven'. As is stated in The Gospel of Matthew by Michael Mullins, the little children
now join the company of 'the poor in spirit' and 'those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness' of whom Jesus also said that 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 5:3,10).
Other sources and children
Poets and writers
have written about the special meaning to them of the child in life. In his work A Cradle Song, William Blake wrote these wonderful words:
Sweet babe, in thy face,
Holy image I can trace,
Sweet babe, once like thee,
Thy maker lay
and wept for me.
A mother watches over her little baby, experiencing the joys and aspirations of a parent for her helpless little infant. She believes in God and His creation on earth and sees in her child's cries the weeping of the Saviour for all
humanity. The poem or lullaby ends by observing that, as the baby’s smiles beguile his mother, so the smiles of the infant Christ beguile "Heaven & Earth to peace." It is through the process of incarnation that God restores a damaged, sinful world
to a state of childlike innocence. Every time a child is born, the opportunity to trust 'in a loving Father ...and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven' is presented to all of us.
The sacraments and children
The sacraments of Baptism,
First Confession, Communion and Confirmation are necessary for the growth of the child's spiritual and moral life, throughout his or her development as a being in the likeness of God. Before a child has reached its thirteenth or fourteenth birthday, it will
have been very well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. These children must be accepted in the name of Jesus and must never be turned away under any circumstances.
We thank God for the gift of children, but
our thanksgiving must amount to more than lip-service. We must never turn them away, ignore them, take them for granted or persecute them. Each time a child is born, we can be redeemed, by restoring ourselves to a state of innocence and trust in The Father.
Let us truly, therefore, thank God by our actions in loving His little ones, and helping to make the world a better place for them and us to live in.
We thank God for the gift of children. We pray for their protection
and the protection of their souls. We pray that their innocence and trust in God may be restored to us so that we may ultimately enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. May they be reared believing in God and his sacraments.
See May intention
2014, this blog
See December 2014 intention, 'Thy Will be Done
'See February 2014 intention, 'Give us this day Our Daily Bread'
Pg 404, Mt 18: 1-14, Part 4, (The Discourse on Community Life), The Gospel of Matthew, by Michael Mullins,
Columba Press, 2007J.P. Meier, Matthew, 201.Mt 19:13//Mk 10:13//Lk 18:15-17
www.gradesaver.com/songs of innocence and of experience...
"Give us this day our daily bread"
Isn't that all most of us need? Our daily bread to eat, a roof over our heads, somewhere to rest and clothes on our bodies to keep us warm when we need them. In this modern day and enlightened age, surely mankind is capable of surmounting the obstacles
that dogged his ancestors in providing the basic necessities for a dignified way of life for himself and, if he is blessed with them, his children? Man has placed satellites in orbit so that he may see the earth and determine the movement of the weather about
it. He has made the study of agriculture into a science and has developed the machinery to implement the best possible means of cultivation and production. He knows what to produce, what is good for him and what is also bad for him. So, what is wrong? Why
are graphic images of starving families still in existence, in the 21st century?
"And lead us not into temptation"
In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World
Bank has called "absolute poverty". Every year 15 million children die of hunger. The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed and one-third is starving. One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished,
including 160 million children under the age of 5.
Last Monday (20.1.14), Oxfam reported that the richest 85 people on earth controlled the same wealth as the poorest half of the global populaton. As one analyst pointed out, each of the wealthiest 85
has access to the same resources as 42,000,000 people. Oxfam's message was that the super-rich had successfully captured the democratic process, so that the politicians now write the laws, for the benefit of the very view, rather than for the greater good.
What do so few do or need with all of that money? How can they possibly spend it on themselves, their families, their wants, their desires? What philosophy drives them to accumulate so much, at the expense of so many? Perhaps it is greed, something which
Erich Seligmann Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. described as "a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy
the need without ever reaching satisfaction." What will be the inevitable outcome if the gap between the uber-rich and the very poor assumes the height of Everest, or the depth of the deepest ocean? Does this even worry them?
Unfortunately, the naked
lunge for riches and profits is not the only cause of poverty, although such ambition is probably a factor in some of the other drivers. The war in Syria is capturing our imagination at present, the terrifying, horrifying images bombarding us daily, from several
sources, in the homes of those of us with televisions and internet facilities; or even just newspapers. What is the cause? Who are the main protagonists? Who will win?
We know who is losing at the moment. The families who have been devasted due to loss
of lives and homes, incomes and basic necessities. Thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions have been forced into exile, as refugees, surviving in crowded camps, in thin-walled tents, relying on the charity of others. The starkest images perhaps
are of little children, orphaned, injured - sometimes horrifically, left for dead, starving. Or of those children smiling at the camera while they admit to making bombs for the 'cause'. We have seen similar images before. You wonder at the perceived lack of
humanity, heartlessness, cruelty and perhaps psychotic nature of people who prosecute wars, when they appear to do so, unmoved by the slaughter of innocent lives; and the starvation of even the very young who survive the conflicts.
And what about those
improved methods of food production referred to earlier? It is a matter of fact that we can produce enough to feed the world's population every year. For different reasons, countries stockpile or create huge mountains of food and reservoirs of drink. Some
of this thinking has a genuine basis, as in the need to prepare for the impact of severe weather conditions. However, curbing supplies in the face of increasing demand also pushes up prices for producers and processors.
Yes, weather has always been
a factor when it comes to poverty. We are reminded of this when we read our bibles. It is still relevant today, and help and assistance arrives, eventually, but not before so many lives are lost. Prevention and intervention must be more timely.
about nearer to our home? Ireland is a developed country, one of the world's richest, deemed to have reached the dizzying heights of sixth position, according to Standard & Poor's agency in 2007. Even with its ongoing financial meltdown since then, it
still ranks at 13th position in 2013, if you accept figures and estimates from the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook Database (April 2013). But, does this mean that all Irish families are rich?
Reports by Bank of Ireland and Credit
Suisse estimate that between 2006 and 2011, the wealthiest 5 per cent of families in Ireland increased their share to nearly half of the country's wealth. However, in 2012, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported that there was an estimated 1 in every
11 of Irish children, living in consistent poverty - 107,000 was the precise figure. How can one small country accommodate such absurdities?
A child in consistent poverty is likely to be hungrier, colder, smaller and without many treats or surprises
in his or her life. Poverty can prevent people from participating as equals in society, from feeling part of their community and from developing their skills and talents. This process is often called social exclusion.
For children growing up in poor
families, poverty can mean not having the things their friends have, not being able to go on school trips, or having to get a part-time job to support the family. This can often lead to problems like bullying because poverty makes it harder to fit in.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"
Poverty exists side by side with vulgar riches, wars, famines, inadequate food production policies. But surely if God's will was done on earth as it is in Heaven, then there would be
no poverty or hunger of any kind. As Christians, have we wandered far from the path? Pope Francis has written in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, that each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for
the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid : “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s
goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17). The Holy Father also reminds us of how bluntly the apostle James speaks of the cry of the oppressed: “The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept
back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (5:4).
All glory and honour are rightly God's at all times. Does our life mirror the glory of God or the glory of self? God sent his Son, to be
brought up by and to live among the poor, as Pope Francis reminds us: "The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could
not afford a lamb (cf. Lk 2:24; Lev 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread. When he began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words."
does not abide in worldly possessions but in helping those in need. That is His message. The actions of so few can and do influence the lives of many.
This month, we pray:
For the conversion of the rich that they may not refuse
help to a brother or a sister in need.
For starving children that they may have their daily bread
For governments to hear the cry of the poor, and to reduce inequality by writing laws for the benefit of the greater good rather than the benefit
of the very few.