Canon Joseph Moerman was troubled.
As a priest and the Secretary General of the International Catholic Child Bureau, he knew that many children of the world suffer greatly. In so many countries, even the industrialized ones, there are children who lack good food and decent shelter, who die of neglect and disease because there are no medicines and too few doctors. How can it be that some children must grovel for scraps of food while others are fed and cared for? Is it because no one cares?
Canon Moerman thought there might be another explanation. Perhaps not enough people know about the deprived children. It is so easy to become preoccupied with the problems of daily living and the thousand details that clamor for our attention. It is too easy not to notice the little ones who cannot speak for themselves. But if more people learned about the needs of all children, they would do everything they could to fill those needs.
Canon Moerman, who is Belgian, discussed his idea with members of the International Union for Child Welfare. Work was begun to bring the worlds attention to children and their special needs. In 1976, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution proclaiming 1979 the International Year of the Child (IYC).
The purpose of IYC is to place children at the center of world concern. People of all nations are encouraged to work through their governments, through separate agencies, and among themselves to learn about children and what they need to live happily and healthily. Nutrition, housing, education, recreation and health care are some of the things to examine and evaluate. Where they are not adequate, they will be improved. Those who are guiding IYC hope that plans will be undertaken to study and improve the lot of children not just in 1979 but throughout the coming decades.
In the past few years, much has been said and written about our priceless natural resources. We are learning how to protect them and use them well. If we value these, how much more should we value the irreplaceable life of every child, the solitary miracle, repeated over and over but never in the same way, that is a human being.
Everyone who takes the time and makes the effort to help the children participates in IYC. Can there be any doubt of the need to do so? Whoever receives this little child for my sake, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives him who sent me.
Abigail Wright is a freelance writer with a special interest in children and youth.