This week I had the pleasure of attending the Children’s Network meeting of the Church of Sweden in Uppsala. This network gathers together deacons, pastors and other church staff and employees who are working on issues concerning children and young people. It gives the opportunity to exchange ideas, listen to speakers and develop plans to provide support to vulnerable children and young people. This year there was quite a focus on the increasing number of migrant children coming to Sweden, many of them unaccompanied minors, and how best to understand their needs, their wishes and enable their empowerment as rights holders on their own. Unfortunately, I did not see all the plans for the future but I could see that people were committed to making a real difference both locally in terms of actions and nationally in terms of policy.
Yet it is really quite shocking that we still have to take such specific action to ensure that children have their rights and that they have the possibility of a life free from poverty. Child poverty is an unacceptable shadow across the face of a prosperous Europe. Nearly 1 in 4 children are at risk of poverty and social exclusion and that number rises when you consider children who face other risks such as disability, migrants or refugees etc. We all know that intergenerational poverty is a reality if we do not address poverty in childhood and that the effects of poverty in children are not limited to a lack of material goods. Health, education and ultimately employment are affected by such poverty.
Perhaps the European Union, instead of focusing on creating barriers and walls, should focus on breaking them down, ensuring that the invisible walls of poverty that bring about exclusion are demolished and never rebuilt.
Until then, diaconal organisations will continue to act locally and nationally, putting children and their families first and bringing opportunities to all.
Have a good weekend,