The recent stories of the radical Islamic group ISIS indiscriminately and sometimes intentionally killing children has been on my mind these days, especially as we focus on children during the Christmas season. It is hard to comprehend what it takes for an adult to kill children for whatever reason but it is most incomprehensible when it is done to make an ideological/political statement to the world.
Yesterday we saw the unthinkable again with the attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan which saw more than 130 children killed. In Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to kidnap girls and sell them as wives or slaves, treating them in an inhuman manner for their own pleasure and profit, and to spread their religion. Christian girls are forced into Islam, disappearing forever from their Christian families. It is a cruel and unthinkable method of proselyting.
The mistreatment of children is not a new phenomenon—it is even a part of the Christmas story. When Jesus was born he was already under threat of being killed by King Herod. He was a threat to the existing order, and Herod would seek to keep his position no matter what it took to do so. When the wise men failed to return to Herod with the news as to where Jesus was located, Herod ordered the killing of boys two years and younger in and around Bethlehem. In the middle of the glorious picture of the baby born in a manger and worshipped by shepherds and wise men is the gut-wrenching story of the killing of innocent children. Jeremiah’s words about the bitter weeping of Rachel for the loss of her children are especially gripping, because in many ways these words are being reenacted over and over again in our time.
Jesus treated children like important, valuable human beings, worth the time to be with them and nurture them. This attitude pervades many Christian organizations which seek to help and support destitute orphans who are left in a helpless state by uncaring and hostile adults. Christian children are also subjected to severe difficulties when their parents are killed for their faith and they are left orphans. They not only suffer the trauma of losing parents but they become especially vulnerable since they have no way to provide for their basic needs. This is where The Voice of the Martyrs steps in to help support these orphaned children and to provide a means of existence in often hostile environments. It is our way of countering the evil that they have experienced and to provide some positive, loving care.
I often pray that those who commit such atrocities against the innocent suffer in their hearts and consciences for their actions. I pray that God’s Spirit will convict them of their sins and that they not be able to sleep at night until they turn to Christ. Only God can penetrate their hard hearts and their very dark minds but it has been done and God can reach them. In the meantime, we need to step in and take care of God’s children. It can be a dangerous world for them.
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.