Children are always the victims of political ambition. Unregarded casualties of those adults who seek power. Easily sacrificed pawns in games of party political chess. They have no vote. They become dispensable commodities for those who would govern us. As the most powerless members of society they are at one and the same time its most vulnerable.
Each stone represents a precious, unrepeatable, unique and beautiful child; beloved of God.
Each stone represents a child who was despised and murdered by the Nazi political elite. Look at some of their faces and weep.
Child victims of the Holocaust from Bendzin, Poland (composite image courtesy of and copyright to Beth Shalom Holocaust Memorial Centre)
Why does child poverty in the UK remain at scandalous levels? If children are valued, how can this be so? Why can we find billions of pounds to start wars or bail out incompetent banks when child poverty is so prevalent? Put this conundrum alongside the 50p rate of income tax which has wealthy celebrities, city types and entrepreneurs squealing in outrage. They castigate the government and foretell dire consequences for our national life if they are 'forced' to move abroad. For them and their right-wing political cronies the unfettered accrual of personal wealth is of the natural order of things; the rest of us, especially the least fortunate, are merely unvalued means to their end of personal gain. We just don't count. Until they need 'our' money to fix 'their' economic mess. These are the same people who will vote for massive cuts in public services and lower taxes on income come the general election. Because debt is a bad thing and we have to be thrifty. This is deliberately seductive language for those who are rich, comfortable or reasonably well-off. It would usher in horrendous consequences for those reliant on social provision, the low-waged and the increasing numbers of people who are becoming unemployed. And it would be disastrous for many children. Such slash and burn populist politics has predictable consequences in such an unequal society as ours, as the 1980's showed only too graphically. Sure Start Children’s Centre's, such as that at the Wainfleet Magdalene Church of England / Methodist School, might well be threatened with closure as a result. I know from first hand experience that this is a project which makes a huge difference to children and parents who live with the daily consequences of appalling deprivation. It is well worth paying tax for, but a tick in an ideological political box which abhors taxation and which sees social spending as 'wasteful' means that our poorest and most disadvantaged children will suffer. For the elite, child poverty is a consequence of parents who do not try hard enough. Such 'layabouts' are a drain on those good honest folk who work hard and earn their bonuses. Such is the barren rhetoric of those who are almost inevitably always wealthy and comfortable themselves.
I have deliberately loaded that paragraph with the dynamics of stereotyping and prejudice. As long as there is an us and them, an ingroup and an outgroup, children will suffer. When will adults realise that this is so? As well as picking up a stone to remember the child victims of the Holocaust we should demonstrate our commitment to children by picking up and using all the political tools at our disposal to eradicate child poverty. Looking deep and long into these innocent faces from another age should surely motivate us to do all in our power to transform the lives of vulnerable children now. In so doing we will transform our unjust society and discover the real meaning of 'wealth', not as an economic construct but as a social reality. A coalition of compassion is what is required, not short-term political points scoring. Stereotyping their parents because of what they are not just perpetuates misery for our poorest children. The bible tells us that it is amongst the poor that treasure is to be found. To treasure the poorest and most disadvantaged members of our society is surely to discover real wealth. And to see just how poor the apparently 'wealthiest' people in our society really are. We, together, have to have the courage to look into the faces of children and see God's passionate priority gazing back.
My two month absence from blogging and reading blogs has finally come to an end. A combination of holiday in March, a run of talks, service prep and presentations, and latterly ill-health put paid to my best intentions. It is good to be back.