The Synoptic Gospels captured it right when it says ‘hurt not, these children.’ And the reason naturally, is not far from the fact that they are the finest of God’s creation and epitomes of innocence. That’s why we celebrate their arrival with joy, drums and cymbals. But to have children stare terror in the face and witness extremely horrifying things not of their nature, leaves my stomach churning: The aftermath of the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict refers.
There is no gainsaying the fact that children are the major casualties in this conflict that has resulted in needless deaths on both sides. I do not want to go into the politics of this seemingly endless conflict, but to plead for the sake of humanity that these innocent children struck and maimed by Israelis and Hamas’ missiles and fighter jets, be spared, for they are just children who know nothing about wars or reasons for wars. My heart was touched when one of these visibly-disturbed children was reported to have prevailed on her uncle to pray for the safety of one of their aunties in the Netherlands. The little girl, in her innocence, knew not that the conflict was limited to her own neighbourhood. I saw many of these children totally disorientated, their infant eyes streaming with tears. I was deeply pained to see another as young as my infant daughter being pulled out of a car wrought by missile, her ankle completely mangled. It was clear her mother’s tear duct had run dry, as she stared horrifically like a hen whose only chick had been scooped up by a ravenous kite.
The current coronavirus pandemic had robbed these children of their precious time to play around with toys or visit playmates. They were just recovering from this only to witness the pounding and aerial bombardment of their backyards, nighttime ghoulishly turned to daytime by the flares of grenades and rockets: a novel experience to many. Now, these children have become victims of panic attacks, sleeplessness, stress and trauma.
How long will this carnage come to an end, oh God? The international community must intervene and ensure that the warring Israeli soldiers and their Palestinian counterpart sheathe their swords. But, I have not seen this happening, unfortunately. All I have heard from America, the European Union, and the UN so far, have been sanctimonious, insincere assurances: ‘We’re watching events closely,’ ‘This violence needs to stop,’ ‘The situation is very disturbing,’ ‘Things will come back to normal in the shortest period,’ ‘We are uncomfortable with the state-of-affairs,’ and other statements that would not make even a fly to wink.
I would want the warring soldiers of both Israel and Hamas to look beyond this war and take into consideration its effects on these children: ‘The treasured little ones,’ as Jesus Himself called them. Behavioural scientists have proved it that when children are exposed over time to violence, their conscious and subconscious minds become affected, and without knowing it, they become not just the beneficiary of violence, but instigators of cycles of violence. One does not wish this for these innocent Israelis and Palestinian children – and that’s why their rocket-throwing and jet bomber-manning fathers must think fast and end these disturbances which may snowball into a full-scale war. The United States of America has a role to play in this, but it appears that the Biden administration is busy with the effects of COVID-19 on his country’s economy as well as the spate of internal terrorism carried out by misguided youths. We pray that those who can bring pressure to bear on the warring sides do so, so that this carnage subsides and the innocent children free to roam their neighbourhoods once again.
Martins Agbonlahor is a criminologist, journalist and author based in Manchester. His new novel: Another Poor Cow – the Dangers of Tradition in Rural Nigeria is available on Amazon and all online bookstores.