- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Baroness Caroline Cox of the British House of Lords is trying to be a voice for the voiceless, championing suffering children around the globe.

“We who have the privilege of living in freedom need to use it to work for freedom, peace and justice for others,” says Mrs. Cox, president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which is headquartered in New Malden, England. “Very often, it’s children who suffer, including persecuted Christians.”

She will address the Faces of Children Prayer Summit, which takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at the National Presbyterian Church in Northwest. The event will focus on the plight of children around the world who endure hardships such as war, slavery, sex trafficking, neglect, abuse, disease and hunger.

The theme of the conference is based on Luke 18:16-17, which reads, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’”

“Children are the most vulnerable part of the human race,” Mrs. Cox says. “They look to us for support. We can’t betray them and leave them in their hour of need.”

During her travels for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mrs. Cox says she has met many faces she cannot forget, such as Deng, a 10-year-old boy from Sudan. His parents had been killed in a raid on his village. Although he survived, he was captured by militants and made a slave. Eventually, a friendly slave-trader released him.

Even though his parents had died, he was relieved to be home again and called by his original name, which means rain in African Dinka. Due to droughts in Sudan, rain is something considered precious. While in captivity, Deng was referred to as “dwet,” which is the Arabic term for slave.

“I shall argue that every child in the world should have an identity of someone to be loved,” Mrs. Cox says. “No child in the world today should be called slave.”

During the conference, attendees will be educated by various guest speakers on the needs of children. Much of tomorrow will be spent praying on their behalf, says Margaret Purvis, chairman of Faces of Children. It is an interdenominational Christian prayer organization founded by First Presbyterian Church in Midland, Texas.

Mrs. Purvis believes prayer is effective in changing circumstances and personal attitudes. There will be 11 prayer groups meeting for three 30-minute sessions.

“There are so many problems out there only God can handle,” she says. “There are some things that take a greater power to change.”

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, encourages individuals to allow their prayers to motivate them to action. The organization is a Christian relief and development association assisting 70 million people each year. He will be speaking tomorrow at the summit.

Mr. Stearns paid for a 6-year-old boy named Vikas to receive surgery and prostheses. Vikas lost both his feet during the January 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India.

“Prayer without action is hypocrisy,” Mr. Stearns says. “Isaiah 58 talks about how God doesn’t even listen to our prayers if we are not with integrity caring for the poor.”

When trying to fund humanitarian projects, Clive Calver, president of World Relief in Baltimore, is concerned that U.S. government money is allocated in the most effective manner. World Relief, www.wr.org, which is associated with the National Association of Evangelicals, provides humanitarian aid, disaster and emergency relief around the world.

Mr. Calver cites reallocation of funding within the United States Agency for International Development. From 2003 to 2004, the budget plans to take about $60 million from child survival and maternal-health programs to fund HIV and AIDS programs.

The child survival and maternal-health grants, which World Relief uses, are designed to provide treatment for preventable health problems and common diseases in children under age 5. One in four children in Third World countries dies before his or her fifth birthday from ailments such as diarrhea, malaria, dehydration and pneumonia.

Although World Relief is a leading organization in fighting HIV and AIDS, Mr. Calver says a significant reduction in funding child-survival programs could reverse declining child-mortality rates worldwide. Besides speaking at the summit about this issue, he plans to discuss the dilemma with senators and congressmen this week.

“Take the money from somewhere else that doesn’t end up killing people,” Mr. Calver says. “I don’t want to lose those children. I can save those lives so cheaply.”

Children are also victims of poor criminal justice systems, says Gary Haugen, president of the International Justice Mission in Arlington. He will speak this evening at the prayer event.

“Public justice systems in the developing world are broken,” he says. “It’s basically open season on poor children.”

Although prostitution, slavery and rape are illegal in many countries, the laws are not always enforced due to corruption. It’s difficult to prevent unethical behavior on the part of the police due to the minimal salary they receive.

For instance, about $250 per person in a year is spent in the United States on law enforcement, while India spends about 25 cents, says Mr. Haugen.

Even when Third World societies allocate money for legal matters, it usually isn’t spent on children, girls or the poor because they are not valued by the culture. This allows them to be abused without consequence. Through prayer, Mr. Haugen hopes individuals at the summit will acquire passion for victims of injustice.

“There are ways to assist the public justice systems,” he says. “We need to create a credible deterrent. It sends a signal and changes the entire calculation of what you can get away with. … The problems of children being abused are the ugliest but most preventable man-made disasters in the world.”

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