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Dr. Saud Anwar Headshot

Society and Children

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The Israel-Hamas conflict has flared into violence, once again. It seems that these two contiguous people cannot find a way to peacefully coexist. There is more to this story. For anyone who treasures human life -- especially the lives of children -- the last few months have been painful.

I recently heard of a farmer from the region describe how his ancient olive trees had been destroyed by bombs. My father was a farmer. I watched him plant seeds. He carefully nurtured and tended them as they grew to fruition. It made me think that perhaps the end of this intractable conflict might lie in the hands of future generations, on both sides. It is, therefore, more important than ever that these children be protected and allowed to grow-up free from the ancestral hatred.

The term "human rights disaster" is mentioned about so much that it has become a cliché. This in no way lessens the horrific conditions faced by so many children, all over the world. This phase of the Middle East war began with the murder of three Israeli Jewish teenage boys. Israeli police beat an American boy, of Palestinian lineage. Children sheltered in UN schools have died in bombing raids. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is slaughtering children indiscriminately. The Boko Haram has kidnapped large numbers of African schools girls. In our country, floods of immigrant children have been sent into the US without family or any support systems.

Vice President Joe Biden said that the United States would be judged by how it treats the thousands of children who come across our borders. He warned that the U.S. would be forced to send some minors back to dangerous, unfortunate environments nonetheless. "These are not somebody else's kids. These are our kids," Biden said. Feelings about the challenges that are faced in the US and throughout the world are, themselves, in conflict. Ideologies, values, politics and perhaps fear are factors that influence personal and collective decision-making. Caught within this concoction of conflicting views, are the children. There is a tendency to frame things in terms of "right and wrong," rather than do the work to understand the complexity of these problems and nuances of each situation. There is a silent majority who prefer not to become involved. At the same time, the loud voice of pundits call for this country to withdraw inside its borders and turn a 'cold shoulder' on the suffering in the world. As a parent, a physician and a concerned citizen, I cannot support that kind of response. In a very real way, the condition of the world is about borders...physical, religious, ethnic, ideological and national. These are the boundaries separate, rather than unite us. The appropriate treatment of children is a part of every society and religion. After all, children are the generation that carries parent's dreams and aspirations forward. Have you ever seen a grandparent who didn't delight in playing with his/her grandchildren? Please do not allow borders, artificial divides and politics to obfuscate the essential need to protect all children. There are times when we must take a stand for a cause which is greater than ourselves Whether they are Palestinian, Israeli, South American, Mexican, Iraqi, Syrian, African or American, "these are our kids."