The Plight of the Children

A frank look at the state of the world—as it treats its youth. Brace yourself.

Our planet supports over 6 billion people. But how are they faring? Look closely at the face of the children—the young ones. Too often, tears are flowing. There is crying, sorrow and pain. Children are suffering terribly.

Every year, nearly 11 million children—about 30,000 a day—die before they are 5 years old, mostly from famine and disease. That’s over 20 children not even old enough to go to school who die an awful death every single minute of every single day. Think about that! Even for the children who survive, the world is an ever more hostile place for them to grow up in. They are victims of all kinds of crime, abuse and neglect. Sometimes they themselves perpetrate evil. Whether victims or perpetrators, reports from around the world show that our children are in trouble. And they are being affected at a younger and younger age. What’s happening to our children? Let’s take a look.


In Japan, recent brutal child crimes have shocked the nation. In June, an 11-year-old girl carefully planned an execution. She led a classmate into a deserted schoolroom, tried to blindfold her, then slashed the girl’s throat from behind with a craft knife. The Japanese media reported that the killer loved a controversial but popular movie called Battle Royale, which depicts a society of children dangerously out of control.

There are other gruesome cases. For many in Japan, it is the types of crimes being committed that are very disturbing. Some experts talk of a youth crisis brewing. After the Second World War, the crime rate for youth ages 14 to 19 in Japan was the same as the crime rate for adults. Now, for every adult who commits a crime, eight juveniles do. In just the past year, the number of children charged with murder or attempted murder has tripled (abc Online, June 13).

On the little island of Sri Lanka, thousands of children are victims of sexual violence and incest. Around 900,000 Sri Lankan women (about 85 percent of them married) have taken up overseas employment, mostly in the Middle East ( What happens in most of the incest cases is that once the wife starts sending money from abroad, the husband gives up his job and starts drinking. With the man spending most of his time at home, the girl child becomes his victim. According to the Center for Women’s Research, in families where the mother works overseas, about 10,000 girls in Sri Lanka face sexual abuse by their fathers or other relatives! Most of the victims are girls between 10 and 14 years old.

In the beleaguered nation of Israel, almost athird of the children—618,000—live below the poverty line. With all the geopolitical news in this part of the world, the status of this very large group of children is often overlooked. Last year, the number of Israeli children living in poverty increased by 16 percent.

In general, the Asian continent is home to most of the children who are exploited for labor. According to the International Labor Organization, at least 120 million children in developing countries between the ages of 5 and 17 work full time. Sixty-one percent are in Asia, 32 percent in Africa and 7 percent in Latin America. Not all of these children work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions, but obviously their work prevents them from going to school. Those who do work in dangerous conditions are often maimed. The Human Rights Watch states that “Working at looms, for example, has left children disabled with eye damage, lung disease, stunted growth and a susceptibility to arthritis as they grow older” ( In India, “Children making silk thread dip their hands in boiling water that burns and blisters them. They breathe smoke and fumes from machinery, handle dead worms that cause infections, and guide twisting threads that cut their fingers” (ibid.). Some of these children are abducted and forced to work. Some are confined, beaten and treated as slaves—not allowed to go home to their families. All of them are deprived of their childhood.

Callous and appalling treatment of children is not limited, of course, to certain areas of Asia.


Some 300,000 children in 30 countries around the world participate directly in the front lines of war. About 40 percent of them live in Africa—mostly in Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Children as young as 8 are abducted while playing in the neighborhood or walking along the road, or they are taken from classrooms and refugee camps. Many are taken from their homes at gunpoint. Some join armed groups voluntarily out of desperation, perceiving them to be their best chance for survival.

Once “recruited,” some children are indoctrinated and subjected to violent treatment in preparation for war. Some don’t survive the training. Those who do are deployed to the front lines. Combat duties include serving as decoys, human triggers to clear land mines, detectors of enemy positions, bodyguards or sex slaves. Children are also used to cook and carry supplies.

“In Sierra Leone, thousands of children abducted by rebel forces witnessed and participated in horrible atrocities against civilians, including beheadings, amputations, rape and burning people alive. Children forced to take part in atrocities were often given drugs to overcome their fear or reluctance to fight” (ibid.). Former child soldiers who have been demobilized are often afraid to return home because the locals saw them take part in the crimes.

In Uganda, girls impregnated by rebel commanders have been forced to strap their babies on their backs while fighting against Ugandan security forces.

Needless to say, child soldiers are deeply brutalized and traumatized by such horrific experiences. Those who survive are haunted by the memories of what they saw or were forced to commit. Worldwide, children who have been killed by war in the last decade or so—many while combatants themselves—number about 2 million.

Africa is wracked with disease too, including hiv/aids, which is now the fourth-largest cause of death worldwide. About two thirds of all people living with hiv/aids—between 25 and 28 million adults and children—live in sub-Saharan Africa. That region also had the largest populace last year of people newly infected with hiv—between 3 and 3.4 million. Multiple hundreds of thousands of children there are orphaned by aids every year. Currently, 10 percent of all sub-Saharan African children are orphans. It’s a tragedy of staggering proportions.

These children—deprived of family and of hope—wander the streets looking for a handout or looking for work, with sickly bodies and empty minds except for the worry of how to survive another day. Many of them will be exploited. In some African cities, two thirds of the child prostitutes are aids orphans. Worldwide, about 610,000 children under 15 years of age died from aids last year.


Germany has been the location of such crimes as the beating and murder of a 3-year-old girl whose father planned to crucify her, the torture of the high-school student, which was videotaped for 17 weeks, and the bludgeoning to death of a 17-year-old male after he was forced to confess that the clothes he was wearing made him look like a Jew. These recent “episodes of sadistic violence and murder … seem to mix elements [of] ethnic alienation, youthful hopelessness [and] violent, technology-inspired fantasy lives that suggest, if not a national pathology, certainly a national problem” in Germany (New York Times, February 11).

The Times article referred to research demonstrating that nearly two thirds of school violence in Germany is committed by despairing young immigrants or sons of immigrants who feel alienated and unwanted in Germany and who resent their fellow German classmates. Many of these teens go to vocational schools that end at noon, return to homes where there is no adult supervision and feed on a steady diet of horror films and extremely violent video games that are supposedly prohibited to those under 18. The result is a sadistic youth subculture that is encouraged to feel no emotion and show no remorse.

In Eastern European capitals like Moscow and Kiev, young girls are duped by sex-trafficking rings into thinking they have been hired for nanny positions, modeling jobs or to be waitresses in Paris, actresses in the United States or anything else that will get them on a plane—not knowing that the plane is headed to Mexico. From there they are moved into the U.S. and sold as sex slaves. These girls used to be in their late teens and 20s; now it’s not unusual for them to be as young as 13.

Kevin Bales is president of Free the Slaves, America’s largest anti-slavery organization. He estimates that at any given time there are 30,000 to 50,000 sex slaves in captivity in the U.S. and that at least 10,000 per year are trafficked in—many from Eastern Europe. Typically, a young victim suffers two to four years before being either killed or deported.

These hideous and repulsive stories and statistics from around the world are just smatterings of the cruel and heartless conditions that multiple millions of children, in every country, every day, must contend with. The United States is no exception.

Children Sexually Assaulted

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that one out of every five girls and one out of every 10 boys in the U.S. will be sexually exploited before they reach 18 years of age! The threats to these children come not so much from criminals on parole but from an older sibling, a relative, a step-dad, a mother’s boyfriend, a baby-sitter, a day-care provider, a teacher, a coach, a school bus driver, a youth leader, a counselor, a priest, a minister, a neighbor and, occasionally, from a parent. According to one report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education in compliance with the 2002 “No Child Left Behind” act, between 6 and 10 percent of public school children have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees or teachers. The U.S. Department of Justice confirms that 93 percent of sexually assaulted children know their assailant! The point is that the offender is usually an authority figure whom the child trusts or loves.

Sexual abuse toward children is usually not confined to an act. It’s about a relationship. Pedophiles are skilled at gaining trust. They prey on lonely or vulnerable children. They manipulate the child’s vulnerability—whether it is poor grades or an absent father—to their own advantage. The child goes through a “grooming” process of getting to know the adult better until this person becomes the respected and beloved father-figure. In time, touching begins, with the offender desensitizing the child to his unusual touching. This desensitizing may eventually lead to sex. That’s how insidious this crime is! The child is not only brutally violated but also becomes deeply confused because he or she has grown to love the offender and knows that the family approves of him.

Imagine the impact on the child. Young victims of sexual abuse often have a pronounced inability to trust other people. Imagine the burden on the child’s mind. These children may develop feelings of guilt that something is wrong with them or that the abuse was their fault. They may feel different from their peers or harbor vengeful and angry feelings toward their parents. They may also feel guilty about possibly bringing disruption to the family or being disloyal—often torn between reporting the crime and keeping silent. They may be ashamed, embarrassed or reluctant to answer any questions about the encounter.

Remember, these are children we’re talking about! According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, a girl’s year of greatest risk for sexual assault is age 14; that’s also the age when the most forcible rapes occur. And a boy’s year of greatest risk is age 4. No, that’s not a misprint. The risk of being the victim of forcible sodomy peaks at age 4! The extent to which a mind has to be perverted to perpetrate such acts is unimaginable. Yet 76 percent of adult child molesters began offending before they were 14. What a disaster we have wrought!

The Center for Behavioral Intervention in Oregon explains that contrary to popular belief, only 25 to 30 percent of child molesters were themselves molested as children. They say that experts now believe that child molesters go after children in part because of sexual play with other children that continued as they got older and because they were exposed to pornography at an early age. And studies they reference indicate that 25 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 are being exposed to pornography on the Internet! (Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oreg., February 15). Is it not logical to make a connection between that and the fact that most offenders begin before they are 14? Yet the purveyors of porn dare to insist that they harm no one! Tell that to the children whose lives have been shattered!

A New World

In the world tonight, a little girl cries herself to sleep. She’s deeply hurt and confused. She feels guilty but can’t find the words to tell her mommy what happened. Mommy’s boyfriend did something to her she can’t even explain.

In the world tonight, a family screams as henchmen break down their front door and abduct their only son. They need him for the army. His parents have no idea where they took him.

In the world tonight, a mother watches her daughter waste away from malnourishment and disease. She has no food, no clean water, and her baby is dying. There is nothing she can do.

In the world tonight, a beautiful young girl is excited about her future. She’s always wanted to be a nanny. But she was duped. They want her to be a sex slave. She craves her dad’s loving embrace. He’ll never know why she disappeared.

In the world tonight, millions of children are begging for help. But the adults either can’t or don’t know how to help them. They have lost their way.

God the Father has the power to end the suffering, and very soon He’s going to use it. He is about to intervene in world affairs by sending His Son Jesus Christ back to Earth! (Acts 1:11). That is our only realistic hope. This world will then be transformed!

In the World Tomorrow, Jesus Christ is going to rule all nations and deal with the underlying cause of this world’s evils—human nature. Man can’t change it, but God can! Jesus Christ will! (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

In the World Tomorrow, husbands, fathers, wives and mothers will be taught true education. The way to happiness, joy and blissful marriages will be revealed. Parents will be empowered and committed to teach their children God’s ways. There won’t be any more religious apathy or confusion (Ephesians 4:4-5).

In the World Tomorrow, proper upbringing will lead to the elimination of all crime! There will be no evil influences that warp our children’s minds. No more child abuse of any kind! Even sickness and disease will disappear.

In the World Tomorrow, the greatest social triumph will be the restoration of the father as the head of the family. Fathers will be taught how to be effective, loving leaders of the family and how to be inspiring role models for the children. “Thus saith the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: … And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).

In the World Tomorrow, the world will finally be fit for our children. And a world fit for the children is a world fit for everyone!

For a detailed preview of this soon-coming new world, write for Herbert W. Armstrong’s tremendously inspiring book The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.