My friend Simon from Children On The Edge sent me the text of this sermon given by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks on Radio 4 yesterday. Spectacular and heart-wrenching stuff.
Thought for the Day, 14 December 2004 - Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
There are some news items so shocking that they make you sit and weep for humanity. On Thursday of last week, UNICEF, the United Nations children's organisation, published a report on the children of the world. 640 million of them lack shelter. 400 million have no clean water. 140 million have never been to school. One in six goes hungry. These are mind numbing figures; a tragedy on a scale almost beyond imagining.
Another report, this time from the International Rescue Committee, documented the death of a quarter of a million children in a single year in the Congo, where six years of conflict have claimed 3.8 million lives. And over the weekend, came more chilling testimony, from Medecin Sans Frontieres, about the traumatised children of Darfur, Western Sudan, who've seen their fathers killed, their mothers raped and will never be the same again.
Children are the causalities of our age. How has it happened, despite all the debt reduction initiatives, the foreign aid, the vast sums of money donated by individuals? Partly it has to do with under-development, and failed and failing states. In part, it's the result of AIDS, from which half a million children died last year alone. But mainly it's the result of armed conflict, which continues to leave children killed, abducted, orphaned, abused, or turned into refugees and left without a home.
What will future historians say when they look back at our time and wonder how we could solve so many scientific problems but not the darkness in the human heart. War is a deadly game played by adults whose innocent victims are children. Why? Because children don't have the vote. They don't write articles, make broadcasts, organise political parties. Because they trusted the adults of the world and we betrayed that trust.
Jewish mystics tell the story of Rabbi Dov Baer, an eighteenth century scholar, who once at night was so intent on his studies that he failed to hear his baby crying. His father did hear and took his grandson from the cot and gently rocked him back to sleep. Then he went down to his son, still intent on his books, and said: "My son, I don't know what you're studying, but it isn't holy if it makes you deaf to the cry of a child."
At this season of giving, let's make sure that one of our gifts goes to help some of the young victims of the world and let it not be said that we failed to hear the cry of a child.