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Ending violence against children needs a change of heart

Challenge misconceptions and stop considering them as 'not-yet' persons
Ending violence against children needs a change of heart

Bangladeshi Christian children take part in an awareness exercise in Dhaka last August, to protest a series of brutal child killings in the country. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)

Published: February 24, 2016 09:37 AM GMT
Updated: February 24, 2016 10:28 AM GMT

The recent killing of four children in Habiganj district has brought — once more — pain and suffering to families in this country.

Schoolboys — Shuvo, Tajel, Monir and Ismail, aged between 7 and 10, were kidnapped, strangled and buried in a place close to their house. They were out playing when they went missing. Their dead bodies, found Feb. 17 shocked the whole nation

The first declarations from relatives indicate that the possible reason for the murders lies in a dispute between two groups from the village regarding some felled trees. It is hard to believe and even harder to accept things like this.

There is only one name for this: brutality.

Despite the actions taken by the authorities that have put suspects in custody and the visit of one top-level member of the government who said that a special tribunal will judge this case, one question remains: When will violence against children stop in Bangladesh?

According to a newspaper report, quoting a local child rights organization, 37 children have been killed in the country since this January, which is almost one every day.

Apparently, the death sentence given last year to several people who beat a 13-year-old to death did not deter those who took the lives of these small children.

I doubt that another death sentence will prevent more violence like this from happening because it has been largely demonstrated throughout history that violence only produces more violence.

The solution cannot be in eliminating people, but in eradicating harmful practices that are commonly accepted today.

We must challenge our misconceptions about children and stop considering them as "not-yet" persons.

They are individuals with their own opinions, dreams and skills; they are in a particular moment of their maturity process, but, above all, they are entitled to human rights and have the right, among many others, to grow and to develop in their full potential as human beings.

Violence has devastating consequences for the life of any person, and it is worst in the case of children. Sadly, violence against children is commonplace in many countries and many cultures.

Ten years ago, a U.N. Study on Violence against Children documented, in an extensive way, how children are victims of violence by adults.

It pointed out that, frequently, violence against children is committed by those who are supposed to take care of them. Violence happens at home, at school, in the neighborhood … in places where the child should be protected and safe.

Ten years later, sadly to say, there is still much to be done. It is positive to say that awareness has been raised among public opinion. If not, cases like the murder of these children and other cases in our country related to violence against children will not have the attention they have at this present moment.

It is important to promote and support initiatives, at all levels, regarding the eradication of violence against children. A strong commitment is needed starting from a personal level, and including communities, social organizations and the government.

What are the initiatives that are in place in my closest environment? If there is none, what kind of initiative can I start to promote?

In Bangladesh, there is a process to adopt and implement a Child Protection Policy in all institutions under the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church. The purpose is to ensure that children can enjoy a safe and secure place for them and to prevent any kind of abuse.

It is a process of common reflection and dialogue that will start at the institutional level, but it also intends to reach more private levels within the family environment and personal convictions. It is an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and understanding between different sectors of our society, from a religious and a social perspective.

It is a seed that must grow and produce good fruits for children and families attending our centers and can also have a positive impact in the communities where these centers are located.

We must do this having in mind children like Shuvo, Tajel, Monir, Ismail and many others whose lives have been truncated.

Let's trust there will be no more lives that are shortened for irrational reasons. And let's continue dreaming and working for the many children in Bangladesh to enjoy the opportunity to grow in a country without violence.

Brother Cesar Antonio Henriuez Leiva FMS is a Spanish missionary working in Sreemangal and a member of the congregation's Marist Child Protection Desk.

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