Year 130° - September 2018

«Let them live free and happy!»

Fr. Livio Tonello, director

Over these past few months, they have often hit the headlines. Sadly, because of awful, inhuman, even dramatic situations. I am talking about children, who have been the focus of media attention because of the violence they suffer. There are children mistreated by their teachers in kindergartens, shoved and cornered.

There are girls abused by those adults whom they should trust. There is Aylan, three years old, escaped from war, lying face down, in sea foam, on the beach of Bodrum in Turkey. Others die under the bombs of fratricidal wars like in Aleppo. There are unaccompanied minors who keep reaching the shores of Italy, inexperienced children who are held confined in refugee camps. The cries of Mexican children separated from their parents and locked in steel cages at the Texan border have outraged the public opinion.

An then the child brides in Asia, who are the fruit of a tribal heritage and pseudo-religious fanaticism. And those children who do not go to school as they are nomads or forced into begging, or those who work in the mines or take up a rifle... It is an infinite list that is not meant to instill sadness or arouse pietism. They are realities for which it is right to say a word, they are frail creatures, sons and daughters of the wickedness of our time.

There is an international convention on the rights of the child adopted at the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989. It guarantees the rights to life and development, non-discrimination, respect for opinions, freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion...

The latest events show us a situation that it is still a long way from these principles of intention. There are many initiatives and good practices for a “childfriendly city” and for encouraging the participation of children in life. But there are still many steps to be taken and on paths that primarily concern subsistence and a minimum of dignity. If we look at the faces of children and grandchildren who rejoice in our families, we can only be grateful to God. We can only be disappointed, however, when we see them crying at an unwelcome gift or an educational “no”.

We have a great responsibility towards them: to make them aware of the uniqueness and importance of life, involving them in participation. There is more to bringing up children than deciding whether or not to vaccinate them or whether or not it is acceptable to give them a slap. There is a humanity to advance, an educational environment to create, that could stimulate the development of the personality of children, as well as their talents and mental and physical skills, their openness to the spiritual dimension of life and to the recognition of God as Father.

Many of the current problems are greater than us, it is true. But every complex problem awaits simple answers. Children are the present and the future of the world. They will be the future that we are building with them today, not because they are like us, but because they are better. Taking the wish of the Polish doctor and educator Janusz Korczak (1878-1942): «Let them live free and happy»!

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