We rejoice in the fact that there are very many wonderful families in which parents surround their children with the life and love they deserve. At the same time we admire and support those solo parents and care-givers who must bring up children on their own and who, so often in difficult circumstances, provide a loving and nurturing environment for them.
Sadly, however, many children in our society do not experience the security of a loving and protective family. What is even more distressing in our present day, is to learn of children who are exploited, neglected and abused – abuse which can be verbal, physical or sexual.
As a Church community, it is a cause of deep shame to us that some within the Church family whose very role has been to protect children, have been guilty of this abuse. We acknowledge the evil. We offer profound regret and sincere apology. We will do everything we can to provide protection and healing to victims of this abuse.
Children are a precious gift entrusted to us by the Lord of creation. Their care and nurture is the responsibility of the whole community. Jesus speaks of children:
Let the children come to me and so not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
We are found wanting in this regard at our peril. However, Jesus says of those who do harm to children:
If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose their faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around their neck and be drowned in the deep sea.
Those words highlight the evil of causing harm to children.
The extent of serious crime committed by young people is deeply troubling. So many are casualties of dysfunction in their early life experience. Providing effective programmes of rehabilitation must be a priority for all agencies that have responsibility for the welfare and wellbeing of children.
Parents, care-givers and all those involved in the lives of children have a privileged role. We applaud the wonderful work that is being done in our New Zealand schools to help children realise their potential and build self esteem, as well as the care and protection offered by dedicated teachers. We support moves by government agencies such as the Commission for Children, and the valuable work of social services, community and church groups which work to ensure that children’s rights are upheld.
Our basic Christian teaching applies equally to children as to adults: every person is made in the image and likeness of God and therefore has an innate dignity. We invoke this teaching in confirming our commitment to support everything that will promote the protection of children.