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SOS: A Collective Call for Christian Response to Global Child Suffering

Updated: Jun 13

I am continually astonished by the lack of intentional and critical response from the global body of Christ when reports of children suffering or being slaughtered emerge. What stops the Church from making a collective effort to save children from war zones, starvation, and genocide?

Currently, over five major conflicts worldwide are affecting millions of children. These humanitarian crises are not due to a lack of resources or attention; each conflict has been a top story on international media outlets for weeks. These regions, such as the Congo, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Palestine, are not areas of unreached people groups. Christianity has a long history in these places, with generations of Jesus-believing and Jesus-loving people present. So, my question is: why is the global Church not unified in saving God’s children?

You would think that if there were one issue capable of uniting Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and unorthodox Christians, it would be the suffering of children. In his book, The Mosaic of Christian Belief, Dr. Roger Olson, a professor of Theology and Ethics at Baylor University, comprehensively lays out the incredible diversity of Christian tradition. From his evangelical perspective, he retells the story of Christian history in a palatable and concise form that any reader can grasp, regardless of their background or education level. As a dynamic individual, I thoroughly appreciate his ability to give historical credence to narratives outside his own traditional background. The book reaffirms that the gospel's intent is to be pervasive and integrative. Many personalities, people groups, and traditions around the world call Christianity their home, even in divided spaces and places. Christianity is no stranger to division or disparity, yet it holds the potential for profound unity when centered on actionable love.

As a 35-year-old Black Christian man in the United States, I know all too well the barriers within even my own ethnoreligious group. I am the son of enslaved ancestry and from a family rooted in conservative Christian tradition; however, I feel a paradox of place as I gather to worship within evangelical tribes with whom I do not always fully identify ethically. At seven years old, I remember seeing homeless people living on the streets of Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago during a late-night ride home. The despairing sight burned into my conscience, I repeatedly interrupted prayer time at church for the next few months, asking the group to pray for the homeless people I had seen. As a young kid, I couldn’t reconcile what I had witnessed with our regular prayer routine. It felt as if there was a divide between our home church's religious practices and the reality outside our safe space of worship.

My discontentment with the orthopraxis of the global Church on social justice has plagued my faith journey to this day. Why don't crises push the modern Church to take direct action? What is the disconnect between children suffering and our call to unified global concerted action? If the body of Christ is an organism, it is evidently complex. The intricate issues of these humanitarian crises present great challenges. Christian universities lack a collective voice to empower a new generation with the missional witness needed to engage these crises, fearing the division it could cause on college campuses. American church pulpits, divided by political lines and differing theological positions on social justice, often view humanitarian crises through the lens of international geopolitics rather than missiological discernment. There is a need for change, a call for a new movement. A movement of missional organizing in a globalizing context that will negate the politics of nationalism and replace traditional paradigms of colonial conversionism, cultural imperialism, and spiritual abuses of power. Can a Christian witness focused on the orthodoxy of the gospel message be merged with a strategic, impactful missional response?

In my urban ministry canon, the book Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God emphasizes the importance of exegeting both the scriptures and the community. In light of the gospel, systems of economics, race, and prejudice often prevent the Ekklesia (Church) from embodying the compassion of Matthew 25’s Jesus, who calls for vigilant stewardship, compassionate action, and accountability to the Father’s mission. Christ's wisdom in proclaiming a Mark 9:42 love ethic teaches us that children have inherent worth deserving of protection and care. Seeing the burned and bombed bodies from war zones calls our imago dei into view. We, in safe spaces, cannot ignore our culpability as those who indirectly benefit from conflict while innocent lives suffer. Any danger to children should compel us to unify in action to address conflicts immediately.

Imagine a world where the Church collectively responded to the murder and abuse of children as an unquestionable and unequivocal line of defense for the people of God. A Christendom where the plight of children in conflict was the headline of our community before it was on the news. A beloved community where our conversations centered on the suffering of the most vulnerable and defenseless. I believe that God's judgment takes unprecedented action when helpless children suffer. I pray for a day when our prophetic witness and love in action tangibly reflect the biblical prominence of protecting all God’s children wherever evil may threaten their vitality with righteous justice.

Jonathan Reynolds

Founder of Urban Reformers, Georgia Chapter

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