Here in the United States and in most relatively affluent nations, we depict childhood in warm, happy tones. We think of little kids frolicking on playgrounds, children attending school, and safe, happy homes where they are protected and nurtured. It’s a beautiful image that is true for many, but not all children.
Unfortunately, there are a great many children who are blandly categorized as “collateral damage” by the spin-meisters of powerful politicians and institutions. In truth, children are frequently the victims of wars, gang activity, and domestic violence. These acts of violence emotionally scar, severely injure, and kill children.
When a newscaster reports on the latest skirmish and the newspaper headlines yet another war, the most tragic aspects of the violence are rarely mentioned. When terrorists attack a town or when a drone strike occurs, young, innocent children suffer or are killed.
Today is the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. The commemoration was created as one part of the agenda during a special United Nations session. The General Assembly was brought together on August 19, 1982, because the membership was “appalled at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression”. The UN General Assembly voted to commemorate June 4th of each year as “International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.”
The UN’s stated purpose of the event is to “acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. This day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children.”
Yet again, we are faced with the suffering of still more children of Palestinian heritage. Hundreds of Israelis and mostly Palestinians under the age of 18 have been victimized by acts of war around the Gaza Strip. Those children cannot enjoy a cheerful playground, a constructive day at school, or a safe place to call home. All around them, are danger, abuse, and death.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, ISIS and other religious extremists inflict death and destruction, justified by ideology. Children face the brunt of these criminal acts. Many of those who are not killed or severly wounded are conscripted as child soldiers who further perpetrate death and destruction.
We know about these children, but feel helpless to do anything to stop the suffering. We might donate money to the Red Cross/Red Crescent to provide some temporary comfort. Still the root causes and long-term damages are not addressed. When the photo ops are over, the politicians and the media return to safe homes and adulation. The victims, adults and children, are left to desperately fend for themselves.
As if war isn’t horrible enough, each hour of every day, more than 1,400 children die of starvation and preventable diseases. Even in the United States, children victims of aggression suffer. Every day, in the US, some 270 children become victims of human trafficking who may never again know freedom. Also, the nation’s more militarized police are being blamed for ever more deaths and wounding of children and adolescents on our streets and neighborhoods.
Most of the world’s young victims will never enjoy the freedoms to sing, dance, or express themselves in creative activities. They will not go through the normal experiences of growing up in a safe environment. They won’t have the chance to stretch the boundaries of clothing and hair styles that we associate with the teen years. Many of the victims will end up as cannon fodder in further wars and conflicts. Those who survive may instigate more violence, later on.
We can shake our heads and wring our hands over the many ways that human and civil rights are violated each day; or we can express our humanity by becoming involved in peaceful human rights and civil rights groups. We can seek out and join an organization that supports the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
We can put our dollars where our hearts are when speaking out against child abuse, bullying, gang violence, and war. Some people feel compelled to offer direct help to victims in war-torn nations. People can help victims of violence by contacting the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, or Human Rights Watch.
People who are concerned about victims of domestic violence or need help, themselves, can contact the “National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health”. The site has a long list of links to helping organizations. For problems regarding bullying, the best place to start is the “Trevor Project”.
The protection of all children from abuse, exploitation, violence, and death are the responsibility of all members of the global community. Today is the day to acknowledge and begin advocating for violence-afflicted young people. This is the day to start work towards solving the problem and to hold all perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders an unusual quote by Niccolo Machiavelli. “The distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love.”