Monday, 1 December 2008

Guantanamo for kids

I recently attended a good and productive meeting that raised my awareness of Guantanamo Bay and the human rights issues related to such detention camps.

A few days later I spent a short time scribbling down some words…

Abused physically
Abused emotionally
Abused sexually
Abused ritually
Abused habitually

Abused by those who house them
Abused by those who feed them
Abused by those who clothe them
Abused by their “carers”
Abused by their “keepers”

Abused for the satisfaction of others
Abused behind closed doors

No rights
No voice
No-where to go
No escape
No justice
No hope
No-one to help

Utterly innocent

Who will intervene?

These words may conjure up all sorts of images and emotions, and you might be surprised to see the line “Utterly innocent” in there. Even at the meeting it was acknowledged that not all the detainees in Guantanamo were “whiter than white”.

But this poem is not about Guantanamo Bay. It is about child cruelty in this country, and it attempts to show the similarity of experience between the detainee in Guantanamo and the child just down your street. The poem is entitled “Guantanamo for kids”.

Please take the time to re-read this poem in light of such child abuse and you must surely agree that “Utterly innocent” is utterly appropriate.

The NSPCC estimates that 1 child is killed by a parent every 10 days in the UK, and that there are over 35,000 children on Child Protection Plans in the UK at the moment (some of those children are yet to be born).

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering say there are another 64, 000 children currently in local authority care.

There are thousands of seriously abused and broken children who have been separated from their families through the courts, and social workers ensure me these children are just the tip of the iceberg.

I was pleased to go to the meeting about Guantanamo Bay, but I feel there is a limit to what I can do. I can raise awareness. I can attempt to apply political pressure. I can pray. But I cannot go in and release the captives. And even then, would my responsibility stop there? Surely we must consider the whole process of physical and emotional restoration for these captives once they are released? Who will be there for them once they are released?

But what about those children in this country, those on the “tip of the iceberg” who have been released from their chains (although some will fall straight back into new chains in our imperfect “in care” system) or those who are still secret and hidden. What about their release? What about their physical and emotional restoration? What about their renewal? Who will consider that? Who will consider them? Can I do more than raise awareness, apply political pressure and pray?

In Isaiah 58, God is rebuking his people for just “going through the motions” when it comes to their seeking of God and their worship of Him. He doesn’t want their unimpressive and duplicitous fasts / acts of worship. God says…

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Worship of God is not just about letting “the oppressed go free” but about bringing “the homeless poor into your house”.

These children need to be bought into a good and caring house, a new house, and all the Adoption Agencies agree with that. This new house is the context for their healing, for their restoration, for their receiving of unconditional love. I hope and pray that providing this house / home / family is what God would have me do for just one of the thousands of those “tip of the iceberg” kids who have been released but now need restoration.

God wants his people to “bring the homeless poor into your house”, and in doing so, God reveals His character through us. After all, this is what God has done for us, isn’t it? Yes, he has “released” us who were captives to sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he has not left us there, broken from our experience. He also re-houses, re-families and re-parents us by adopting us into His family and His house for the purpose of true restoration and renewal.

God has done more than release us captives. He has bought us, the homeless poor, into His house, his place for renewal and restoration. What and how is God calling you to bring the homeless poor into your house and what would that look like?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the people of God should do such things for these children. We may not be able to see it, but they are all wearing orange jump suits.


DS said...

Hi Kev - great to have you posting - and what a start - that was a powerful post and very challenging.

I know what you mean about the distant thing on Guantanamo, though there is lots we can do.

Yet as you say, poverty, relational poverty and abuse exists right under our noses - I remember that awful thing in Upperthorpe with the young girl at the pub ( - I had to think what a difference someone getting alongside that family to support them could have made? Totally Heartbreaking. Thanks for the provocation and I know it is something you and Clare are acting on right now. Every encouragement, all support possible and of course prayers to you in that. We always said 'not just a talking shop' with engage and its a challenge to work out what can be done. You focus on the extension of home and family to the ‘guantanamo kids’ and that’s a wonderful transformative healing thing.

Just looking at the needs of the world is so daunting but surely within each one of us there is a particular gift of God for the world - I know I want to be open to that - as we go deeper into God and the gift we are becoming. I hope that in what Clare and you are doing you find that for yourselves too – and in so doing bring hope and home to just the right young life. What that means for me ….. All I can say right now is that I am up for figuring that out together.

mark said...

Great post, Kev. Really liked the poem and very challenging. You have always modelled an open home and I think that is seriously counter-cultural and a pretty hard thing to do and I really respect you in that.

Please lead us in identifying ways we can support you and the needs of abused children on our doorstep.