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Reclaiming childhoods

THE ASIAN AGE. | FRANCIS GONSALVES
Published : Nov 17, 2016, 1:08 am IST
Updated : Nov 17, 2016, 9:35 am IST

The Bible highlights three virtues characteristic of children.

Jawaharlal Nehru (Photo PTI)
 Jawaharlal Nehru (Photo PTI)

Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter heaven,” Jesus cautions his disciples. What does he mean? Let’s reflect upon Jesus’ words during this week sandwiched between Children’s Day (November 14) and Universal Children Rights’ Day (November 20).

Said Chacha Nehru: “I like being with children and talking to them; and even more, playing with them. For the moment I forget that I’m terribly old and it’s very long ago since I was a child.” His words resonate with many of us long past those unforgettable years of our childhood. How wonderful to be childlike, not childish!

The Bible highlights three virtues characteristic of children. First, a child understands things “hidden from the wise”. Children innately admire everything with awe and avidly learn from life’s experiences. Hence, it’s vital to provide them with healthy environs for learning, with teachers who’ll inspire them to grow and bear fruit.

Second, due to their dependence on others for basic needs, children tend to trust everyone easily. They live with trustful surrender to their parents, teachers and significant others. Children’s lives are marked by faith, though the content and dynamics of their faith is not clearly grasped by them.

Third, children never bear grudges for long. They quarrel with their siblings and friends; but soon they forgive and forget. Thus, they’re excellent models of forgiveness and reconciliation in our violent and vengeful world.

On November 20, 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Children, and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees every child the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard. In India and elsewhere, isn’t it shocking, sad and scandalous that millions of children are robbed of their childhoods and denied their basic rights?

Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Prize laureate from Chile, writes: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults; but our worst crime is abandoning children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot wait. Right now its bones are being formed, its blood is being made, and its senses are being developed. To a child we cannot answer ‘tomorrow’; its name is ‘today’.”

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi says: “I dream of a world which is free of child labour, where every child goes to school. A world in which every child gets its rights.” Do you have dreams for your kids? And, for that child forced to survive on pavements and slog at food stalls? It cannot wait. Its name, too, is “today”.

Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

Tags: pandit jawaharlal nehru, children’s day, nobel prize