Children, along with the elderly and individuals with special needs, are among the most vulnerable groups. They are susceptible to various forms of discrimination and abuse.
As one of the most defenseless segments of society, children often face violence from those close to them as well as strangers. Our popular culture, while satisfactory in some aspects, provides numerous examples that highlight the vulnerability of children to those around them.
Phrases such as ‘The stick from heaven’ and ‘Where did you get the good behavior? From the hanger above’ (i.e. the stick ) are indicative of this issue. These sayings, often used by parents when entrusting their child to a teacher or tutor, imply that the educator has the liberty to use violence against the child who has worn out his parents’ patience.
Such expressions reflect a disturbing acceptance of violence against children, emphasizing the urgent need for societal change.
We belong to a generation that was raised in an educational system that permitted beatings, humiliation, and various forms of punishment. Those in charge of education at the time believed that retribution, or violence against students, was the best way to educate them and guide them on the right path.
Ironically, social media recently showcased an educator from one of the advanced industrialized Western countries lamenting the era of corporal punishment through a circulated video. We, who were placed in the educational system by our parents, can only commend them for protecting us from the arbitrariness of this system at the time.
As for those whose parents could not integrate them into the educational system, or those who dropped out of school during their school years, they ended up working for employers ranging from neighborhood grocers to welders, electricians, carpenters, or mechanics. Their parents believed that this would make their children skilled workers and eventually successful business owners, or Castle Owners, as the popular saying goes.
However, only God knows what violent experiences these children, who start working as early as ten years old – or often even younger – will go through.
If we delve deeper into the phenomenon of violence against children, we enter the world of child labor and all its associated disasters. This began with the industrial revolution when children were used in mines due to their small size and ability to navigate narrow galleries. It continues today with children employed by companies that have forgotten about human rights and child labor laws which are applicable in their home countries. We find these children working in carpet factories, glass factories, and dealing with chemicals harmful to their health, with no one held accountable.
On the other side of this phenomenon, we must urgently address the violence that children face at home from family members who should be protecting them and aiding their growth. What happens behind closed doors may be much worse than what we see in society. The violence inflicted by parents on their children may be unimaginable to many and known only to a few due to the need to preserve the family’s image in society. This is especially true if it involves sexual harassment by a family member.
The big and serious question revolves around what kind of citizen such practices produce for society. What kind of mother, father, official, or human being results from exposure to such violence? Why is alcohol and drug addiction so widespread? Why are violence and crime rates so high in modern society? What is the future of a society that wakes up every day to a new childhood catastrophe?
Childhood is indeed sanctified in Christianity. The Incarnate Lord said, “Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such people” (Matthew 19:14). He also blessed the children by taking them in his arms and laying his hands on their head.
Anyone who inflicts violence on a child, whether physical or verbal, should know that they are violating the commandment of the Creator. They are sowing seeds of hatred and resentment in society, and the curse of harming this child will follow them until the Day of Judgment.
The deliberate mass killing of children, as is happening today in Gaza and across Palestine, as well as what has occurred in the past in the Levant, and some African countries, is an act of genocide. It should be classified as a Crime Against Childhood.
Therefore, we propose to distinguish between two concepts: Violence Against Children and Crime Against Childhood. We should work to define the latter concept so that it can be used to classify, judge, and condemn massacres of children.
However, in the absence of awareness and conscience, what can deter such acts? The law!
And who enforces it? It’s a combination of community legislation and social development organizations – the natural protectors of society from those who kill the body but those who kill also the soul, of whom we may not even be aware, as stated by Gibran Khalil Gibran.