February 13, 2018
Wilberforce A!ert: Crimes against children
The shattered innocence of childhood is among the most devastating and enduring wounds inflicted on communities embroiled in conflict. Children remain the world’s most vulnerable victims of religious intolerance, wars, and famines. In the past three years, the 21Wilberforce team has visited more than a dozen refugee or IDP camps in Africa and the Middle East. The stories and images of suffering children in these places have seared our hearts and remain burned in our memories.
We must hold to account the crimes against the children.
David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in South Sudan, announced last week that armed groups in South Sudan released more than 300 child soldiers. All sides of the conflict in that region have recruited upwards of 19,000 children.
I will never forget the blank stare in the eyes of two Yazidi girls as they told us of their 100-day captivity by ISIS. They had recently escaped and risked their lives to avoid further humiliation and torture.
Mighty is a 16 year-old girl in a refugee camp in northern Nigeria who is raising her three younger brothers. Dreams of being a doctor were shattered when Boko Haram attacked her village.
While you know about the 300 Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, thousands of other young people have been captured by the terrorist group. In addition to kidnappings, one million children in northern Nigeria have no access to schools.
Every day my wife checks the weather in Zahle, Lebanon to check on Gracie, a beautiful three year-old Syrian girl she met, who lives in the stark conditions of a refugee camp.
Even as we pray for Gracie, our hearts are broken by the eyewitness accounts we have heard telling of babies thrown to their deaths from tall buildings, children starving in villages isolated from their farms by Fulani militants in Nigeria, or toddlers forcibly taken from their parents and given to their captors. Privately, we have seen horrific pictures of children killed in recent bombings in Damascus.
The scars are not always physical. Millions of children have witnessed the rapes of their mothers, the killing of their fathers, and the burning or confiscation of their homes. Thousands continue to live in slavery or serve as child soldiers.
Yet, even in the horror of these circumstances, there are heroes who step in to provide relief. From Nigeria, we have met Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi and his wife, Gloria, who have adopted 300 children. There is Rebecca and her husband, who have planted schools in places where militants have destroyed other schools. And, there is Jihad, a Lebanese Christian businessman, who has led his church to start schools and community centers for Syrian refugees.
Ben, Gloria, Rebecca, and Jihad cannot save all of the suffering children, but they do bring hope and healing to many every day. Please join 21Wilberforce and these heroes by responding to the cries of these who are most vulnerable.
Randel Everett, President