THE BLOG
12/22/2014 09:42 am ET Updated Feb 21, 2015

Is There a Moses Basket for Persecuted Children?

The story is as old as the tale of Moses but to see it repeated and repeated is shocking - the deliberate killing of children for political or religious reasons.

A parent in Pakistan wailed to reporters that his son was in a uniform in the morning and in a casket by evening. He was one of 148 people, most of them children, slaughtered by the Taliban at an Army public school in Peshawar in revenge of military assaults on the militants.

The Taliban also claims it attacks schools because these institutions spread the satanic west's agenda. "But there is a more prosaic reason. It's easier to kill children and teachers than to attack heavily fortified military installations. It's easier to blow up a school building than to bomb a police post," Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif told The Guardian.

Think of the now famous Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, shot in the face in October 2012 because she advocated girls' education. She lived, to the dismay of the Taliban In March 2013, the principal of a girls' school was shot dead and six students were hurt in a bomb and gun attack in Karachi. The girls were all aged between eight and 10.

Then in June, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda put a bomb on a bus, killing 14 female students and injuring 22. Altogether in 2013, seventy-eight attacks against schools, teachers and schoolchildren were reported to the United Nations in Pakistan, said Leila Zerrougui, the UN envoy for children and armed conflict.

Killing adults is not enough
UNICEF, the U.N. Children's agency, said that families and children are not just getting caught in the crossfire. They are also likely to be specific targets. "Killing adults is then not enough; future generations of the enemy--their children--must also be eliminated."

In the Rwanda genocide of 1994, children of Tutsi families were targeted as well as adults. As one political commentator said in a 1994 radio broadcast, "To kill the big rats, you have to kill the little rats."

The increasing number of child victims is primarily explained by the higher proportion of civilian deaths in recent conflicts, UNICEF said in 1996. In the wars of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, only about half the victims were civilians. In the later decades of the 20th century the proportion of civilian victims rose steadily: in World War II it was two thirds, and by the end of the 1980's it was almost 90 per cent.

For example, more than 10,000 children have been killed in the Syrian civil war in the 21st century while many more are subjected to "unspeakable" suffering, including rape, torture and recruitment for combat," the United Nations said in a report.

Kids carrying guns
The jarring image of a child or young teen swaggering under the weight of an automatic weapon has recently become common in news reports from troubled nations. "Chillingly reminiscent of scenes of kids playing soldier, it represents a shocking, worldwide trend: more than 250,000 children under 18 are combatants in current conflicts, an unprecedented number," said the Children in Need organization.

Still, the targeting of children because of their ethnic background, their sex, their family's political beliefs, is dreadful no matter where it occurs. ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State has waged a particularly cruel war in targeting civilians.

A recent example came from Christian leaders reporting that four children were beheaded by ISIS militants in Iraq for refusing to denounce Jesus. Young girls from the Yazidi minority are taken as sex slaves with ISIS justifying its actions by citing the holy book, the Koran. Boka Haram in Nigeria is equally as notorious, kidnapping or killing girls who go to school.

Obviously, civilians and children are causalities in all wars, with an estimated 400 Palestinian children killed in the Gaza conflict. Palestinians then killed three Israeli youth with Israeli settlers reciprocating by killing a Palestinian teenager.

In the United States, the deliberate murder of children has usually been conducted by flipped-out assailants using easily obtainable machine-guns (like the heartbreaking death of pupils in Newtown, Conn. in 2012), rather than an organized flipped-out movement, even if it makes little difference to suffering parents.

One cannot help but recall the biblical tale of an Egyptian Pharaoh ordering the death of boys born to Israelites. Moses was saved in his basket floating down the Nile. There are too few baskets today.
(Correction: an earlier version had a 4,000 rather than a 400 estimate for Palestinian children killed)