Worship: When we see each child as our own, we are on our way to a safer world

Worship

The first story involved the abduction of 276 young women in northern Nigeria. Members of the terror group Boko Haram overpowered security guards at an all-girls school in Chibok, yanked the girls out of bed, forced them into trucks and disappeared. Some escaped, but as international outrage swelled, leaders of Boko Haram were emboldened to kidnap more young women. Reports indicated that some had been sold for $12 each as sex slaves.

No matter your religion or lack of religion, we can agree every child deserves a safe environment in which to live, learn and play. Every child should be safe in his or her schools, neighborhoods and places of worship. These places should be sanctuaries — places of safety and support. But we have not cared enough, or been vigilant enough, to make this a reality.

The second story revealed that over the last ten years, the Vatican has defrocked 848 priests who sexually abused children and young adults and sanctioned another 2,572 with lesser penalties. As a clergyman, this clandestine tragedy deeply grieves me, especially in light of thousands of other instances of sexual abuse that have never been exposed, among Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Assemblies of God and every other group who claims the name “Christian.”

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No matter your religion or lack of religion, we can agree every child deserves a safe environment in which to live, learn and play. Every child should be safe in his or her schools, neighborhoods and places of worship. These places should be sanctuaries — places of safety and support. But we have not cared enough, or been vigilant enough, to make this a reality.

So I feel compelled, at least on behalf of the Christian community, to say that we are sorry. We’re sorry that children have not been protected as they should be, and that some who claim the name of Christ have acted nothing like him. We’re sorry that we have been guilty of singing hallelujahs while not working for safer neighborhoods.

Apologies are not enough. Action matters more than words. Better practices and safeguards, more engagement in schools through mentoring, tutoring and simply presence, as well as taking responsibility for the safety of our children in our neighborhoods, can all create a safer Oak Cliff for the sake of our children.

A reporter of the Bosnian genocide, trapped in crossfire, discovered a panicked man holding a little girl hit by a sniper bullet. He immediately threw down his pad and pencil and rushed to help both of them into his car.

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As the reporter raced to the hospital, the man cradling the bleeding child said, “Hurry, my friend, my child is still alive.” A few moments later he said, “Hurry, my friend, my child is still breathing.” Then he said, “Hurry, my friend, my child is still warm.’‘ Finally he whispered, “Hurry. Oh my God, my child is getting cold.”

When they reached the hospital, the little girl had died. Later in the bathroom, while washing blood from their hands and clothes, the man turned to the reporter and said, “Now I must go tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken.”

The reporter was amazed. “I thought she was your child,” he said.

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“No,” the man responded. “But aren’t they all our children?”

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