Friday, November 23, 2007

Child for Life

So England shares the fate of other footballing nations like Andorra in being knocked out of the European Championship. In the event it was Croatia which hammered home a crushing defeat, English hopes having been kept alive to that point by a ‘sterling’ performance from Israel. Now English heads hang low as the nation realises it can’t perform in Europe.

The fact is though it isn’t just in the national game (or obsession) that we’re at the bottom of the rung. 2007 marked the publication of a damning report from the United Nations children’s organisation UNICEF. In a survey spanning twenty-one industrialised nations – most of them in Europe – the U.K. (not England alone now) ranked last in the quality of life for children and young people, well behind Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic among others. Mercifully Croatia didn’t feature on the list. Only one other nation, which enjoys a ‘special relationship’ with us, showed any comparable performance.

As well as ranking last overall, UNICEF placed the UK bottom in terms of the quality of relationships for children – both with their families and with their peers. The UK featured bottom on the list in respect of risky behaviour including substance misuse and sexual health. With all these findings, is it any wonder that children and young people feel worse about themselves in this country and are less happy than in any other nation?

Of course, UNICEF’s findings are open to challenge. Were the data up to date? Were the comparisons fair? Perhaps not and perhaps as a country we don’t deserve to be at the bottom of the pile but wherever in real terms we are, we are clearly nowhere near the top.

The true measure of a nation’s standing is revealed in how well it treats the most vulnerable, children among them. At Christmas we’re invited to respond to the One who makes himself vulnerable, as the child awaiting hospitality and love. The child is not just for Christmas – he is for life. May you know his peace this Christmas.


Fr Andrew




The Revd Andrew Wickens
Dudley Education Chaplain
Diocese of Worcester
01384 214487