CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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Jesus loves children

People brought little children to see Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘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 little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16)


 

Before we celebrated the joy of our saviour’s birth in 2012 and welcomed the new year of 2013, our newspapers, radios, televisions and all kinds of media told us tragic stories.


It could be said that tragedy is in the news on a daily basis and, unfortunately, that is true.


When the tragic news is about children, that catches our attention even more. Last year, we read about the youngest of school children being killed and wounded by people with mental problems.


In Henan, China (14 December 2012), a 36-year-old local man, attacked 23 little children and one adult—an 85-year-old female helper—with a knife, as they entered their kindergarten.


The children were taken to a hospital with head injuries and released after a day or two, but one student and the elderly woman remained behind with more serious head wounds. The man was known for his mental problems and was arrested.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew. 2: 18).


In Connecticut, the United States of America (14 December 2012), as little first graders were starting their school day, a 20-year-old man broke into the school, shot and massacred 20 boys and girls along with six teachers who tried to protect the children. The young man had mental problems. He shot himself as the police arrived.



Orphans in China

At the end of 2010, there were 650,000 orphans nationwide in China, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. According to the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, the capital had 425 orphanages, with 75,000 beds, at the end of 2011. 


Those institutes housed 34,000 children at the end of 2011, an increase of more than 11 per cent over the previous year.


However, Wang Zhenyao, a former civil affairs official who is now director of the One Foundation Philanthropic Research Institute at Beijing Normal University, said that the number of public orphanages is still far too few to meet the demand of able-bodied orphans, let alone those with congenital diseases.


He added that individual and private child welfare homes are a necessary support for adoption.


However, without proper policy support, capital and professional staff, it will be difficult to develop these places.


There are more than 10 orphanages in China run by Catholic religious sisters. Other Christian groups have many homes for these children as well, where they receive loving care.



Complex Procedures

In July 2011, the Ministry of Civil Affairs ruled that each orphan being raised by welfare agencies should be provided with a living allowance of at least 1,000 yuan per month.


Children housed by individuals should receive a minimum of 600 yuan. In Beijing, children in public institutions receive 1,600 yuan. Children housed with families and individuals get 1,400 yuan. 


Orphans raised by people who found them on the streets only get 70 yuan minimal living allowance per month. The government only provides subsidies and assistance to legitimate children’s welfare centres and not to individual or private homes.


The conditions imposed on orphans are stringent. The complicated and time-consuming procedures and the dozens of certificates required for legal adoption in effect closes the door on many orphans.


Everyone in China needs to have a hukou, or resident permit for the area in which they reside, which is crucial for education and social security. Abandoned children may not remember names of their parents or their hometown, so getting a hukou may take a lot of time for those in an orphanage.



A Tragedy
In Henan (January 4), a blaze at a private orphanage claimed the lives of six children and one adult. 


A seventh child, 10-years-old, was severely injured and is currently being treated in a hospital. The children who died were all younger than six and the youngest was just six-months-old.


The cause of the fire is still being investigated. “From the moment I ran to help put out the fire until the moment the ambulance arrived, I didn’t hear any of them cry out,” said a man named Li, who owns a small electrical appliance store and lives not far from the scene of the tragedy.


“Those children’s lives were pitiful. They had already escaped death once after being abandoned by their parents, but destiny was still cruel and they still couldn’t escape death,” he said tearfully. 


The two-story apartment was completely destroyed. The house once housed 18 abandoned children, most of whom had congenital conditions, such as cleft palates or albinism, along with infantile paralysis. Some had been diagnosed with mental health disorders.


Yuan Lihai, a 48-year-old street vendor, who took in and cared for these abandoned children, has dedicated her life to saving unwanted children.


She has three biological children of her own who are young adults now.


Yuan told how her orphanage began. She found the first of the unwanted children, a baby boy, with a cleft palate, abandoned in a bathroom at a hospital, in 1987.


“After these children were born, no one wanted them. All I wanted was to let them live. It breaks my heart to watch them die in the street,” she said.


So she took him in, without proper paperwork or help from the authorities. The infant lived and others followed. She has lost count of exactly how many she has taken in, but it is more than 100.


The fire on January 4 broke out at 8:30 am, 90 minutes after Yuan left home on her daily routine of taking four children to school on her rusty tricycle.


She returned to find flames and smoke shooting out of every window. None of the children inside answered her desperate calls. 


When civil affairs officials took away the other 10 children under her care, most of whom were living in another house, she had a heart attack and was taken to hospital. The tragedy crushed her.


Prior to the incident, Yuan’s work won great approval from society. She was well known for her acts of kindness. She played the role of surrogate mother and her neighbours nicknamed her, Loving Mother. Because her reputation spread around her area and other counties, more people started bringing abandoned children to her, including hospital workers and even the police.


But after the fire, everyone pointed the finger of blame at her. Many of the children she rescued over the years are now adults with families of their own (South China Morning Post,  January 15).


When Yuan finally leaves the hospital, she may face criminal charges and prison. At the end of 2010, there were 650,000 orphans nationwide in China, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, she could face detention for running a private home for orphans.


If the child welfare system in China is not able to supply enough homes for abandoned children, should good people like Yuan be put in prison, or pay a fine?


Corrupt officials

A 17-year-old government-funded orphanage in eastern Guangdong never took in any orphans, but instead, was used as a local government office for handling funerals, marriage registrations and disability issues, as well as a dormitory for officials, Xinhua news agency reported on January 14. 


The scandal was exposed after a public outcry triggered by an earlier report saying that local officials had borrowed orphans from a temple in an attempt to fool senior officials who had come to inspect the government-run orphanage. 


More than 115 local orphans were left without proper care as a result and had to live at a Buddhist temple or with local families. Most still lack proper household registration documents, or a hukou (South China Morning Post, January 15).



“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).



Good News

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has vowed to strengthen supervision and support for individuals, as well as private institutions that look after orphans and abandoned children.


There are 615,000 orphaned and abandoned children in China now, but less than 18 per cent reside in institutions.


In Lankao, Henan, where the fire broke out on January 4, the ministry approved 900,000 yuan ($1,121,427) for the construction of a child care home. Only 20 out of 158 counties in Henan have care homes. There are about 50,000 orphans and abandoned children in Henan, but only 5,600 live in institutions.


Construction on a new orphanage will be completed in June and it will open in August. It will cover an area of some 1,700 square metres and there is even a possibility that Yuan Lihai will have a role to play in this new home for children (China Daily, January 11).


It is hard to believe that people can harm children, whether through vicious attacks, or through abandonment. 


These terrible things happen in Hong Kong, China and many other countries. Let us do all we can to help children in need and to care for them as Jesus taught us. MC



Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, as you do to one of the least of my brothers, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40).



“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127). 

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