Lutherans Should Protect Children, Environment, says LWF Head

The head of the Lutheran World Federation said churches must focus on the desperate need for environmental protection and prioritize the welfare of children, in his New Years message to the 66 million Lutherans worldwide.

“There is an urgent need for a shift of priorities in the area of environmental protection,” wrote LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko. “It seems entirely clear that environmental destruction, e.g. by deforestation along the coastlines, in part to make room for resorts, has contributed significantly to the destructive impact of the recent tidal wave.”

In his message, released on Dec. 31, Noko reminded the Lutheran world of the fact that nearly a third of those killed by the earthquake-tsunami disaster were children.

“The vulnerability of children has been brought home to all of us in a significant way during the Christmas season,” he said. “We should learn from this in such a way that we place the needs of children at the center of our priorities and planning in our religious communities and in our societies.”

“This rare incomprehensible tragedy reminds us starkly of the needs of children worldwide also in the longer perspective,” he added.

At that light, Noko said the society must fix their eyes on the needs of the children such as long term education and protection.

“I think also about the enormous needs for children’s education as a means of equipping them for life and of enabling them to contribute to the development of their societies and of the whole ‘global village’,” he wrote.

The following is the full text of the New Year Message from the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, as released by the Lutheran World Federation on Dec. 31.


To:LWF Member Churches
LWF National Committees
Related and supporting agencies

For my New Year’s message to the LWF member churches this year, I had intended to focus my reflection on the general situation of children.

Before issuing my message, however, the entire world was gripped by the catastrophe that has struck so many different countries. The continents of Asia and Africa have suffered enormous human and material losses. But many nations outside these two regions have also been tragically affected by loss of human life, and high numbers of people are still unaccounted for.

As the international community including the LWF does its utmost to respond to this disaster, the vulnerability of children has been brought home to all of us in a significant way during the Christmas season. Fresh are the images of frightened children torn from their parents’ arms, unable to swim and hold on to any thing or run fast enough to safe ground.

This rare incomprehensible tragedy reminds us starkly of the needs of children worldwide also in the longer perspective. The flood tragedy has shown movingly that adults, faced with extreme threats, do all they can to save children. We should learn from this in such a way that we place the needs of children at the center of our priorities and planning in our religious communities and in our societies.

There is an urgent need for a shift of priorities in the area of environmental protection. It seems entirely clear that environmental destruction, e.g. by deforestation along the coastlines, in part to make room for resorts, has contributed significantly to the destructive impact of the recent tidal wave.

Would children, estimated to make up one third of all the casualties and wounded, have fared better in this catastrophe had more of the natural habitat been protected?

In addition to a healthy natural environment, children require adequate social welfare, which is lacking in many countries. Children need effective protection from corrupt intentions of some adults, with sexual exploitation and trafficking of drugs to children apparently being on the rise.

In many countries children continue to be recruited and used as soldiers, and to be obliged to take part in the most violent and atrocious acts, leading to the destruction of their still fragile personhood.

Children are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and the situation of AIDS orphans and child-headed households is of particular concern to the LWF in its diaconal work. In some countries, children continue to be subjected to the death penalty, in contradiction to established international norms.

I think also about the enormous needs for children’s education as a means of equipping them for life and of enabling them to contribute to the development of their societies and of the whole ‘global village’. Education can truly be the key to a world without discrimination and violence, to a world of tolerance and peace. Many LWF member churches have great resources for education. Can we rethink our contribution in this area to the welfare of children and the future of our societies?

As we begin this New Year, it is my sincere prayer that every parent, grandparent, godparent, citizen, church and government will do everything within their power and imagination to work for the improved conditions of children.

May we as religious communities uphold the importance of the rehabilitation of infrastructure after the tidal wave flooding, ensuring at the same time that children are not marginalized in the rehabilitation process itself.

As we begin the New Year 2005 with pain that none of us can fathom, may God comfort those who mourn and strengthen every home, community and country for the sake of all. We recognize with gratitude all who are providing social and pastoral care during this difficult time.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko
General Secretary

Geneva
31 December 2004