There is a report on today’s BBC website about orphans in Iraq which I found haunting. It is easy to become sentimental about children if one isn’t a parent; it is also easy to become indifferent or focus on whatever is the current ‘child headline’. Here in Britain, child abuse is a hot topic; and while I would emphatically agree that we need to ensure every child is safe, I must confess it has made me think less about other matters that affect children. Surely the loss of a parent is one of the most traumatic; and to lose both parents to violence or war more traumatic still? The thought that there may be 800,000 to a million orphaned children in Iraq alone should give us pause. What does that mean for the individuals concerned and society in general?
I have no clever suggestions to make. We need to pray, certainly. If we can, we need to help financially or with our time. Perhaps most of all, we need to try to make an imaginative leap of understanding. Like many others, I had grave doubts about the legitimacy of western intervention in Iraq but other conflicts have come to take centre stage and my mind now turns more easily to Syria or the DRC. The danger is that we may forget that war and the effects of war last long after the last soldier has left the country. For those orphaned children in Iraq and others like them, the war will really only end a generation hence—if then.