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The gift of childhood

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..." Psalm 8. 2

Today is 'World Day against Child Labour'. Around the world thousands, millions even, of children are forced to work - either through circumstances or coercion. So they may be living rough and struggling to survive, or they may be in impoverished families having to deploy every possible resource to put food on the table. In extremis, parents are even selling their children for sex. Since lockdown, the scourge of so-called cyber-sex has rocketed. According to the International Justice Mission, 2/3 of the perpetrators are related to their victims.

There is nothing good about the sexual exploitation of minors. Even non-sexualised child labour is problematic because it exposes children to inappropriate risks and it almost always comes at the expense of their education. And, because education offers the most reliable route out of the poverty, its importance cannot be overstated.

According to Matthew, Jesus quoted the above lines from Psalm 8, when instructed by the authorities to quell the enthusiasm of the children who were celebrating his cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus clearly enjoyed the company of children. He was also protective of them, once famously warning that anyone guilty of jeopardising their moral purity might as well hang a mill-stone around their neck and jump into the sea - such was the judgment heading their way!

We are not called to take the law into our own hands. (There is enough of that happening already!) We are called to be aware and to support those who are equipped to intervene. How can we protect the childhood of minors close to us: in our homes, our families, our neighbourhood? Churches used to be a focus for nurturing children. With some notable exceptions, that is no longer the case. The involvement of some clergy in the exploitation of children and our institutional failure to find new ways to engage in a rapidly changing social context are two obvious reasons.

So how can we rebuild trust with the emerging generation and how can we communicate the news about Jesus so that it proves not only good but irresistible - for all the right reasons?

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