The Common Good

Getting Children Out of Work and Into School

Beau Underwood reminded us at this year’s Sojourners’ Christmas chapel that Jesus was not born into a calm, peaceful world in a serene nativity scene. It was a chaotic world in which the Jews were oppressed by Roman rule and Jesus’ very act of being born freaked Herod out, resulting in a mass genocide of baby boys. All was not calm and peaceful as the birth of Jesus challenged the sinful powers and structures of the world from the very start of his life.

 PavelSvoboda / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Unidentified young boys work hard as porters instead going to school: PavelSvoboda / Shutterstock.com

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This Christmas the world remains a very frightening and chaotic place for many children around the world. Jim Wallis and I met with former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown just a few days ago and Gordon told us about a group of children in Delhi, India who were being held in unspeakable conditions — forced to work for up to 15 hours a day making Christmas decorations. 

Children! Forced slave labor, some of them as young as 8 years old, imprisoned, beaten, and required to make decorations intended celebrate the birth of the savior of the world. Making matters worse, these are only a few of millions of young children trafficked into slave labor around the world all year long. What horrible irony.

Prime Minister Brown has been named the U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education. His mission is to accomplish the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education for children around the globe.  The education of children is inextricably linked to the trafficking and forced labor of children which we must fight to end while providing access to education. Education is a critical component to ending the cycle of poverty that so often lands children and families in these despicable conditions.

What we can do right now is to call on the U.N. to take concrete action to get all primary school-age children out of work and into school by 2015. Tell them to end child slavery. 

To learn more about the important work to end this Christmas nightmare for children, visit educationenvoy.org. Let us advocate that the workload of all children shift to learning and acquiring education in schools, giving them hope and an avenue out of poverty.

Larisa Friesen Hall is director of major gifts at Sojourners.

Photo: Unidentified young boys work hard as porters instead going to school: PavelSvoboda / Shutterstock.com

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