Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Child Victims of War

Syrian rebels claim that President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons this week to kill another 1200 of his own people. Over 100,000 have died in the past two years in Syria’s civil war.

Footage has been provided of children choking, adults writhing in pain, and bodies stacked in temporary morgues like so much cordwood. Hammish de Bretton-Gordon, a British counter-terrorism expert, has said these symptoms are consistent with a chemical attack.

Since the rebels are not thought to possess the sophisticated weaponry required, the attack is more likely to have originated with Assad’s forces.

Adults can decide which side to support in a war; can argue their actions are justified, and believe their deaths meaningful.  Children do not have such options. These victims of war often cannot comprehend why anyone would harm them.  Their world is simply thrown into chaos. Loved ones disappear. Horror prevails.  Deprivation becomes the norm for those few who survive at all.

UNICEF estimates that, during a recent ten-year period, fully 2 million children died as the result of armed conflict; 6 million more were injured or disabled [1].

About 15,000 – 20,000 people are killed or maimed each year by landmines or other explosive remnants of war (ERW) [2][3]. Approximately one in every five victims is a child, and 85% of children die from their injuries before reaching a hospital [4].  Children are more likely than adults to handle these dangerous devices from curiosity, assuming them to be toys [5].

Another Mother for Peace, an anti-war group from the ‘60s, was known for the slogan, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”  The merits and shortcomings of pacifism cannot be resolved by a sentence or two.  We can all, however, agree that war is not healthy for children. Those engaging in it should make absolutely certain there is no better course.

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[1] Human Rights Watch, Armed Conflict: Child Casualties of War.
[2] and [4] UNICEF, Children and Landmines: A Deadly Legacy.
[3] Care in Landmines: The Hidden Menace places the figure at 26,000 deaths.
[5] UNICEF, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 6 – Restoring the Relationship with God

The abuse experience can warp the lens through which victims see themselves and the world. It skews even their view of God, since He – perhaps more so than the predator – is blamed for the abuse. Abuse victims must be permitted to vent the full range of emotions elicited by the violation, if their faith in God and relationship with Him are to be restored.

God’s continuing love for abuse victims is more powerful than any symptoms or shame. This does not necessarily mean that the scars of abuse will be erased. Victims are likely to need frequent reminders, both of God’s love and His mercy.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103: 10-12).

” ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ “  (Isaiah 1: 18).

” ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ ”  (Isaiah 43: 25).

Victims might ask themselves whether they would judge another exploited child by the same harsh standards they have applied to themselves; whether the thoughts and behaviors they now characterize as defective on their part would have occurred at all, if they had not been abused.

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 5 – Forgiveness

From a human perspective, it is inconceivable that abuse victims would consider forgiving so grievous a violation as abuse. Only with God’s intervention can abuse victims hope to forgive the perpetrator, and successfully move on with their lives.

Forgiveness begins with a decision to put the violation in the past. It may be necessary to re-address forgiveness as life events bring other areas of unforgiveness to the survivor’s awareness.  This does not mean that the victim should be placed again in harm’s way.

Forgiveness cannot be forced (and does not preclude criminal prosecution). But without it, victims run the risk of being consumed by bitterness. God wants more for them than that.

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Not Democracy

Then Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe of many colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly” (2 Sam. 13: 19).

For those who may not be familiar with the Bible story, Tamar, a daughter of King David, was raped by her brother, Amnon.  She was denied justice.

Not a great deal of progress has been made in the Middle East since then.  Over 180 rapes have taken place in Tahrir Square while the world watches.  The possibility of justice for these victims remains remote.

As many as 30 to 100 men will isolate a woman, then violate her with their hands, literally tearing the clothing off her back.  Women may be beaten with chains, chairs, and other objects while being raped.  The genitals of some women have been cut.

Public violence against women has been a problem in Egypt before.  Foreign journalists, including Lara Logan and Sonia Dridi, have been assaulted and raped.  Even more disturbing perhaps, a UN survey on gender equality reported that 99% of the Egyptian women responding had been subjected to some form of sexual violence in their lives.

The message being sent is that women have no place outside the home.

A large part of the problem is the fact that sexual abuse is not a crime in Egypt.  Sexual violence may be committed without fear of reprisal.  Police treat rape victims as if they were the culpable party.

Tahrir Square is no Tiananmen Square.  Whatever else the protests ongoing in Tahrir Square may be, they are certainly not democracy, and should not be mistaken for some fledgling version of it.   We should not delude ourselves.

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