So it is Christmas, a good time to give thanks for the past year, especially for our children. They are, after all, a mysterious reflection of who God is: Emmanuel, which literally means ‘God is with us.’
If this is true, if children do help us see God’s very nature, then it is also good to ask ourselves, how are we doing with our children, these gifts to us? And how are our children doing with us? In some cases, not well. In fact, my most memorable story of 2011 – maybe of my six years in Uganda – involves Moses, a seven-year-old Ugandan boy abducted, likely, for child sacrifice.
I don’t need to educate you about this. You know that many Ugandan children simply vanish to die at the hands and knife of a witchdoctor. How many? Uganda’s authorities admit to dozens a year. Others say hundreds, if not more.
In Moses’ case, he was taken from Kamuli district, put into a truck by men who told him that his father wanted him, then moved onto a boda-boda to the Kenyan border. With the little boy crying hysterically, the boda driver eventually got nervous, left Moses, and fled into the midnight darkness. Moses was then taken by border police to hospital for trauma.
I know the story because Moses’ father asked me to help pay for desperate missing-child ads on radio stations. Later, after hearing those ads, a local councillor phoned to inform me the boy had been found and was safe in hospital. “You know,” I later told Moses’ overjoyed father, “I contacted friends back home, and hundreds of Canadians were praying for you.”
Many of those Canadians then emailed me to rejoice in the good news. Many praised God. Some thought Moses is destined to be a great minister, or maybe a doctor, someone who will help save others. For me, it is enough that this precious Ugandan boy is breathing and running and laughing.
But what about the many other Ugandan children who are taken for sacrifice? Are they not precious? Surely they are. And, for their sake, are there lessons to learn from this story?
One lesson is that anyone who intentionally even hurts an innocent child will eventually face divine wrath. Their fate is worse than being dumped into the sea with a heavy stone pulling them down. This is how Christ said it.
In the meantime, Ugandan justice needs to work better. Despite the 40 days of national prayer against child sacrifice in 2009, authorities still don’t have teeth to fight this. Many Ugandans fear even talking about juju. It seems many backs are still turned. No wonder Moses Binoga, of Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, told the BBC recently, “We are limited.”
Parents in Uganda also need to be more vigilant in watching their children. In fact, little Moses was taken when he was left to walk home alone from a neighbourhood unknown to him. How could this be?
The biggest question is what is the value of your child? Priceless? Or something less? What does this culture accept? Why does this newspaper, for example, have the educational cartoon, “I know you love your children, but …” Because it reminds readers to treat children with love and care.
How interesting it is that when the life of the Christ-Child was threatened by the sword, when his parents fled, they found safety in Africa. Shouldn’t this continent be that haven for today’s children also?