This year’s cruel war against children

There’s a picture everywhere I turn of an army officer chaperoning two young children away from a danger zone.

Their expressions are unfocused, unsure, as children often are, of what has happened, putting their safety in the hands of the authority figure.

What is most striking about the picture is that the two young children are wearing their school uniform. Their day should have been like that of millions of children around the world, dressed in school kit, within the sanctified boundaries of a school, with the greatest of human exchanges taking place, the transfer of knowledge. These two children were spared, unlike more than 130 other children who died in the massacre.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman is said to have told the BBC that they had deliberately killed older pupils and not targeted “small children”. Their belief that there is some moral line that allows some children to be killed is only the devil’s work. They added that the attack was revenge for the army’s campaign against them, and that they chose the school as a target because their families had also suffered heavy losses.

When defenceless children become the target, it’s clear that you have no moral high ground. You have no morality at all. The only positive outcome we can hope for is that this will create a change in political and public will to finally root out the horror of the Pakistani Taliban. When even the Afghan Taliban are condemning their actions, then you know that what’s happened is horrendous.

The war on children has been horrific this year. During the attacks on Gaza during the summer, the sanctity of the school space was continuously violated, a place of learning for innocent children, and in this case run by the UN.

Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 school girls and hid them from the world, innocent pawns in a quest lacking morals or humanity.

The growing number of children in Rohingya refugee camps are suffering from malnutrition, with reports suggesting that aid is specifically being blocked to the camps by Myanmar groups attempting to hound out this persecuted group. Rohingya children are attempting to flee the area by boat.

And what of the unnamed, unknown, uncounted children killed by American drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Pakistan? We don’t know their numbers, but we do know that the indiscriminate gunfire does not care if its target is a child. It doesn’t even record the death. We have no number and little global visibility for those losses.

Every attack on a child should be a stab at our collective global conscience. The perpetrators are devoid of humanity. And global opinion and global mechanisms must work harder and harder still to resolve the politics that have led to the attack.

Righteous anger, like that of mothers around the world is the right place to start, but it is not enough. At least it shows we have retained a shared moral compass. But the stab at collective conscience demands we do more, especially as we see that the monsters attacking our children are growing in size and heartlessness.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk

Published: December 19, 2014 04:00 AM

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