Friday, July 11, 2014

Suffer the Children

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.

Mark 10:14

I am not a particularly religious person, but my son is an Episcopal priest and nationally acclaimed poet who spent last year in an orphanage for little girls in Honduras(see for the full story).

Spencer has a deep feeling and profound empathy for fleeing Honduran children and their suffering. He has seen it first hand.

Out of his experience will come two things – a documentary file and book of poetry featuring poems by the girls, both to be called Las Chavas, which translated, I gather, loosely means, home for girls on the street.

Spencer and I have been discussing the current humanitarian crisis at our southern border, where more than 50,000 children, many unaccompanied by parents, have crossed over to the U.S. Their numbers are escalating exponentially. Spencer's heart is with the children. He does not care much about the politics, but feels we should do everything – anything - we can to nurture them, save them, and place them in a safer environment.

In Honduras, Spencer spent his time in Our Little Roses orphanage in San Pedro Sulas, enclosed in a compound surrounded by barbed wire and protected by armed guards. The mission of orphanage, with its 72 girls, was to educate them, nurture them, protect them, and keep them in Honduras.

Spencer has horrid tales to tell, of girls abandoned in the streets on cardboard sheets, a girl stuffed down wells to die, retarded girls secondary to starvation and malnutrition.

Spencer referred me to a July 9 New York Times article “Fleeing Gangs, Children Head to U.S. Border.” He said it was accurate. It reported the situation in San Pedro Sula, where drug-related gangs roam the streets and murder children with impunity.

Last year gangs murdered 1013 people under 23 in the nation of 8 million. San Pedro Sula has the higher murder rate of any city in the world. Children are killed for refusing to join gangs, over vendettas against their parents, and because they get caught up in gang disputes.

Half the kids flooding into the U.S. are from Honduras; virtually none come from neighboring Nicaragua, which has a similar poverty rate as Honduras. In San Pedro Sula, 60 bodies, mostly children, are stacked up in morgue, all murder victims.

What to do?

No one has a clear answer.

Deporting them back to Honduras won’t stop the murders.

Repatriating the children in the U.S. will save those who have come, but it won’t stop the flood and faces political opposition.

Securing the 2000 mile border might slow but it will not reverse the tide. President Obama said, “The best thing we can do is make sure the children can live safely in their own country.”

But that’s a long term and threatens Honduran sovereignty. Who are we to tell Hondurans to run their country, particularly when one root of the problem is the U.S. appetite for drugs which flow through their country? Besides, political corruption stands in the way.

A Peace Corps-like initiative might be dangerous.

Yet, somehow we must make the world safer for these children. Perhaps building more orphanages and safe havens for the children is Band Aid. But it will not stop marauding gangs, murders, and humanitarian hemorrhaging.

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