The Day of the African Child -16th June 2020: Theme “Access to Child-Friendly Justice in Africa” – A Biblical Perspective – By Anne W. Mwangi, Bible Advocacy & Scripture Use Manager, Bible Society of Kenya (BSK)
I am always very excited about this day – Celebrating the African Child. Like every year on 16 June, the African Union and its Member States observe the Day of the African Child (DAC) as a commemoration of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, where students who marched in protest against apartheid-inspired education, were brutally murdered.
To celebrate the children of Africa and calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges they face in Africa, the DAC 2020 theme reflects on ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’.
The Bible has a strong perspective about access to Child Friendly Justice. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. This gives dignity and worth to every individual whatever their personal, cultural, religious or socio-economic circumstances, including children.
I strongly believe providing a child friendly environment is everyone’s responsibility. Let us all take our individual responsibility and heed to the call. I highlight the following practical things we can do to ensure that the African Child thrives to be the person God intended them to be.
Affirm all children and reassure them all the time: Children are Gifts from God as put in Psalm 127:3, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him”. Mark 10:13-16, “people were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. What an example from our Lord Jesus.
Defend the cause of all children: Isaiah 1:17 he says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”. Caring for orphans is, as far as the message of Isaiah is concerned, a fundamental justice issue.
The Bible also warns us against injustice towards children. Matthew 18:10 the Bible says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven”.
Allow full inclusion, participation and protection of children in their communities: In the Gospels, we see Jesus placing a firm emphasis on the place and value of children. “We see Jesus blessing children, embracing them, rebuking those who turn them away, healing them and lifting them up as models of faith,
In Mark 9:33-37 Jesus teaches that welcoming a child is synonymous with welcoming him, and in Matthew 18:6 he issues a stark warning to his disciples: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Jesus unmistakably has a view on accountability and, on this occasion, links it to the way in which adults care for children.