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BWA leaders endorse statement on issues facing at-risk children

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Baptist World Alliance executive committee endorsed “The Oxford Statement on Children at Risk” during its March 8-11 meeting in Washington.
The statement asks Christian churches to be aware of problems facing children globally, to support programs to assist at-risk children and to pray regularly for these children and their families.
Recommended to the executive committee by the BWA’s Baptist World Aid committee, the Oxford Statement was adopted at a consultation on children at risk in Oxford , England, two years ago involving 51 representatives from 38 evangelical ministries from Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America.
Among United Nations statistics on children cited at the BWA meeting:
— more than 35,000 die every day from malnutrition.
— 40 million lose their lives each year by abortion.
— 100 million are abandoned each year and 10 million are sexually exploited.
— nearly 2 million are killed in war each year and countless more maimed.
Among other challenges facing at-risk children are drug and alcohol abuse, child slavery and lack of education, the BWA executive committee was told.
Already as part of the BWA human rights program, Thorwald Lorenzen, chair of the BWA Human Rights Commission, has written a booklet, “The Rights of the Child,” detailing many of the problems children face and relaying firsthand accounts of BWA visits to countries where children suffer especially from war. This booklet is available from the Baptist World Alliance.
In news on another children’s project, Karl Heinz Walter, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, reported more than 3,255 children from Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, countries most affected by the 1997 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, have been hosted by Baptist churches in Europe. Walter said studies have shown beneficial results to children who are able to leave the affected areas and go away for a vacation and healthful care.
Relief for debtor nations, African development, racism and other justice and development concerns also were addressed during the BWA executive committee meeting.
The BWA executive committee again called on Baptists to support Jubilee 2000, a resolution on relief to debtor nations approved during BWA General Council meeting in Durban, South Africa.
The BWA president and general secretary will write the alliance’s 192 member bodies and ask them to take action on the resolution that asks the world’s richer nations to forgive the debts of 30 of the poorest nations as part of the biblical concept of Jubilee and as a gift to them to begin the new millennium.
Donald Lawrence, president of the BWA youth department who supports Jubilee 2000, said, “In Jamaica, we spend more on debt repayment than on development,” while Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, said much of the money given for hurricane relief in Latin America is being used for debt repayment.
“Development is the critical area of need,” said George Younger, BWA representative to the United Nations in New York, who underscored especially developmental needs in Africa.
Younger said the United Nations has made the needs of Africa a special focus and he called on the BWA to do the same. “The BWA cannot neglect Africa,” he said, “and we must move to the point where the whole developing world is the focus for our evangelistic and humanitarian activity.”
African Baptist leaders supported the call for Jubilee and asked for prayer especially for Angola, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, countries torn apart by civil war.
Nigerian Baptist leader and BWA Vice President Osadolor Imasogie also asked Baptists to pray for the newly elected democratic leader in Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. Baptists are giving him their support. Obasanjo, educated in Baptist schools, has said his three and a half years’ imprisonment or, “sabbatical,” as he has described it, renewed his Baptist faith and made him more patient and tolerant.
Imasogie, who describes himself as “a personal friend of the new president,” said he translated three books Obasanjo had written in prison, one of which had been smuggled out to Imasogie.
Frank Adams, general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, said African Baptist leaders in their meeting last July in Durban, South Africa, called on Baptist churches in Africa to develop and live out an understanding of the gospel that will address the poverty, war, unemployment, AIDS and other needs of Africa.
Theodor Angelov, former president of the Bulgarian Baptist Union and former president of the European Baptist Federation, said freedom in Europe has created “a new iron curtain of poor and rich countries.”
“We must help the poor and the hundreds of refugees,” Angelov said.
Supporting the call of the BWA Summit of Baptists Against Racism held in Atlanta in January, the executive committee agreed to take a motion to the July General Council meeting in Dresden, Germany, that would make the first 10 years of the new millennium “A Decade to Promote Racial Justice” around the world.
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz said BWA also will be providing specific suggestions to member bodies to help in the fight for racial justice.

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  • Wendy Ryan