Saving the children – 17 December 2018

Two pictures today, the first a Christmas card from the early 1920s. In this happy and peaceful scene a mother and her children are at leisure. She reads while one child plays and others stoke the roaring fire with logs. Candles blaze on the mantle. This family know peace and comfort. Is there a man is this house? If so he is not depicted. There is no sense that he has been lost in the war, rather the suggestion is that it is he has provided this content, warm home.

The second picture, contemporary to the first, is by Kathe Kollwitz, part of a series called The Peasant War that she drew in the years after World War I. An outstanding Prussian artist, she was concerned with depicting the effects of poverty, hunger and war on the working class. In this picture, children and their mothers are shown in quiet despair. The women try to shelter their children from harm, but they are not successful. In the years following the war it was women and children that made up the greatest numbers among refugees. The plight of the children was particularly concerning.

Today, 17 December, Anglicans in the UK commemorate Eglantine Jebb, the founder of the charity Save the Children. It was the distressing conditions of refugee children, such as those depicted by Kollwitz, that prompted Jebb to begin collections of aid to alleviate suffering. How could it be that children living in the world at the same time had such disparate experiences of life? She also drafted the Declaration of Rights of the Child, adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. Eglantine died on this day in 1928.

Donations to Save the Children can be made on line. The charity is working, among other places, in the Yemen, Syria, and with the Rohingya in Bangladesh.


Behold a little child
laid in a manger bed;
the wintry blasts blow wild
around his infant head.
But who is this, so lowly laid?
The Lord by whom the worlds were made.

Alas! in what poor state
The Son of God is seen;
Why doth the Lord so great
Choose out a home so mean?
That we may learn from pride to flee,
And follow his humility.

William Walsham Howe

Ever- present God,
most of us will never have to decide
whether or not we should flee our home.
For this we are truly thankful.
Whether it is war, oppression, religious
persecution or other fears,
we commit those children and families
who have chosen the journey of a refugee into
your hands.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Their journey is dangerous,
the road they walk is treacherous
and their destination is not guaranteed.
At the end of their journey,
we pray ‘they’ become one of ‘us’.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

The Children’s Society