Most Americans are surprised to learn that there are more than 100 million1 abandoned and orphaned children in our world today. Most of them do not live in institutions or foster care homes, but struggle to survive alone on the streets of the world’s cities. They sleep under bridges and in abandoned vehicles or buildings. They drink contaminated water and eat discarded food from waste containers and garbage dumps. Because of this their bodies are sickened by parasites. In their endless search for food, water, safety and warmth they acquire slow-to-heal injuries that further weaken their bodies.
These children, exceedingly precious in the eyes of our Lord, are preyed upon by those who seek to destroy them in various ways. Drug gangs recruit them for crime and addiction. Islamic militants find an abandoned child to be easily converted to hate-filled violence and extremism. The police, pressured to keep begging children away from the tourist, often brutally beat them back into hiding places. The child sex industry thrives wherever abandoned children can be found. In the developing world sweat shops employ children and even enslave them. These are the means by which the abandoned children of the world are destroyed. But worse than all of these is the constant, penetrating pain of loneliness, despair, and abandonment for children that have never heard a father’s encouraging words or felt a mother’s tender hug.
Child Labor and Slavery
2 Many of them are children. Millions of children in India are given up by their families into slavery as laborers. Despite a ban on employing children under 14, India’s labor ministry recently said there are 12.6 million children aged between 5 and 14 working, the largest number of child laborers in the world. According to the UN there are 218 million child laborers globally.3 Many are abandoned or orphaned or have been sold by their families. This is a common, shared history among many of the children of Interhope’s orphan homes.
Exploitation by Islamic and Militant Extremists
An abandoned child, alone on the streets becomes an easy target for militants and extremists. They need to belong. They desperately want a family. They often fall prey to the manipulation and indoctrination of Islamic extremists. The Associated Press recently reported the plight of thousands of African children being kept as slaves by Islamic schools. The children are sent to beg in the streets and return their earnings to the school. Interhope staff have witnessed this disturbing trend first hand. The infamous Darfur genocide is actually driven by the Arab/Islamic slave-trade.4 Children are the tragic victims of this evil.
The Sexual Exploitation of Children
In Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia the horror of child prostitution thrives mostly unchecked by authorities. In India, one third of sex workers are children.5 In Cambodia children are sold to brothels by their own parents. Abandoned or street children are often simply kidnapped. Interhope is regularly involved in the rescue of young girls and boys from this destructive abuse. According to recent reports from the UN, the numbers of children being exploited in this way are dramatically increasing while the average age of the children involved is falling with each new survey. In addition to providing a safe home for these children, Interhope actively seeks to rescue them from their captors and bring such criminals to justice. This work is heartbreaking and often dangerous. Children as young as 5 years old have been found in brothels. Please help us rescue as many as we can and pray with us that these beautiful treasures of God, so severely damaged, will be healed in time. Pray that their tender hearts will be healed by the Great Physician. Pray also for those who have yet to be rescued for they suffer in ways no person was ever meant to suffer. Pray that God will help the staff of Interhope and other organizations and all the authorities involved to remove this scourge from our world.
Treasures in the Trash
It is almost impossible for Americans to imagine it, but in the developing world abandoned or orphaned children often live on the streets, under bridges, in abandoned buildings or drain pipes, and even in garbage dumps. Some of the children of Interhope’s orphanages were rescued from living inside the mountains of garbage which are typically located outside a city like Calcutta or Manila. Along with household garbage there is also industrial and medical waste, the corpses of dead animals, and all the refuse that a Third World city can produce. From this awful source street children eat and drink. Here they sleep, carving out small caves in the trash. Their bodies are ridden with parasites and often covered with badly infected cuts. These are the “least” of whom Jesus spoke when he said, “when you feed or clothe, or help one of the least of these... you have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:31-46 (Paraphrased) Interhope is actively involved in rescuing street children who can be found in and around garbage dumps in India and Southeast Asia.
Child Soldiers and Drug Gangs
One of the most insidious dangers faced by street children is the coercion to violence that takes many forms. Drug gangs prey on street children and actually “help” them get addicted to solvents or hard drugs. Street children are also recruited into armed gangs of rebels or insurgents. Boys as young as 7 years are taught to use weapons and even to kill. Their recruitment often leaves them physically and emotionally scarred, if they survive at all. “I’ve seen people get their hands cut off, a ten-year-old girl raped and then die, and so many men and women burned alive… So many times I just cried inside my heart because I didn’t dare cry out loud,” said a 14 year-old girl, abducted in January 2000 by the Revolutionary United Front, an armed group in Sierra Leone.
A God Who Weeps
We believe that the Father weeps for them and that His great heart of compassionate breaks for these children in their distress. He hears their prayers We believe God requires a response from His people,
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence. - I John 3:16-19 (NIV)
Scripture gives us a clear test of our faith practices and their acceptability to God.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27 (NIV)
If there were an efficient, effective, and sustainable way for a Christian family or individual to help them...
If this way provided a means to rescue, transform, and provide a home for a child abandoned and alone in the world...
If this way also spread the Gospel to the front lines of the mission field If to do all this were easily affordable for most families...
Who among us would not reach out to change a life?
1 Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) http://www.unicef.org/
2 Source: National Geographic Magazine http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0309/feature1/
3 Source: UNICEF www.freetheslaves.netand http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1585972/modern_day_african_slave_trade.html
5 Source: Global March.org