“Suffer little children, to come unto me”

by Gillian Hugo


Recently, I was fortunate to spend a few days on the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast with my family. It was the school holidays, and the children needed to get out of their usual surroundings. Warmer days and fresh sea air are undoubtedly good for everyone.


During our time away, I had the privilege of time to myself and spent hours turning the pages of my latest book club read, The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. This epic tale, set in Kerala, South India, spans 1900 to 1977. It is a story that follows three generations of a family, with children often taking centre stage: the wealthy and unwealthy, the healthy and unhealthy, and the educated and uneducated. Situations vastly different to my own and yet similar in other instances.


When I took a break from reading and stared out across the sea, I wondered about the similarities and differences between my children and those in the novel. My mind also drifted to the latest news from the war in Gaza and what the children there are enduring. I was reminded how quickly the plight of children in war-torn areas can be forgotten in the busyness of our lives.


A post on our local neighbourhood group also got me thinking. A group went to the nearby so-called informal settlement to distribute food parcels, warm clothes, and blankets. A young boy approached one woman. He asked her if she could help him go to school. The school he was attending has closed down, and his mother cannot afford to send him to a school situated further away. This child is hungry to be educated.


My children have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, education, and the luxury of a holiday at the beach. And yet, they do not realise how fortunate they are. Children worldwide are starving, homeless, orphaned and uneducated. 


The June 26, 2024, article published by Yasmeen Serhaan in Time states, “As the death toll in Gaza continues to grow amid Israel’s punishing bombardment of the Strip, so too does another statistic: the missing children. To date, at least 21,000 children are missing amid the chaos of the war, according to a new report by Save the Children—a figure the charity says includes 17,000 children who are unaccompanied or separated from their families as a result of the war and the 4,000 children who are thought to be missing under the rubble, as well as the untold number of children who have either been detained by Israeli forces or have been recently discovered in mass graves.”


In the same article, Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric intensive care physician who volunteered in Gaza’s Al-Aqsa hospital in March with U.K.-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, said, “…every single means of child protection … has been targeted or destroyed. They’ve lost every other mechanism of protection that helps them grow into well-developed, successful adults.” 


According to Save the Children, “No child in Gaza can go to school   there is a total absence of education.” 


We see these atrocities from a distance and need to remember that in South Africa and worldwide, children face similar circumstances. Perhaps you are left helpless, wondering how to support or make a difference. Many international organisations cry out for donations to supply medical aid, shelter and food. In South Africa, charities and parishes continue to assist the marginalised. You can also help by giving your time at a soup kitchen or donating to your parish. 


“But Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 16:14

Related Posts