I wonder why children, for all their constant display of naughtiness, cheekiness and mischief, are often described as 'innocent' Perhaps their innocence stems from the blissful unawareness of evil, of being cocooned against harsh realities so that life is viewed with wide, trusting eyes.
But the painful reality is that so many children are cruelly robbed of that innocence, joy and bliss of being young and free, and rather suffer unspeakable horrors.
Such is the story of the children of Gulu in Northern Uganda. On a day when many people gather in remembrance of fallen heroes of the Great War, I think of wars, and the consequences it has on our young and defenceless. I think along these lines because I am in the audience watching the Watoto Children's Choir tell their story through music and dance. And I weep at the stories I hear - of communities torn apart, an idyllic existence shattered, families destroyed, and children being forced to kill one another for survival. I feel a hopelessness in me because I know there are wars and civil unrests in other places and I am powerless to do anything about them. So I weep at the sheer futility.
But I hear the uplifting songs they sing, and can't help the tiny spark of hope stirring in me at their truly unbreakable spirit in the face of such trauma, humiliation and destruction. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my being, I wonder how anybody can even start to heal after going through such an ordeal. How do you begin to rescue, restore and make whole again a child who has been battered, abused, wounded and dehumanised? I grope about trying to find answers to these questions, until a line from one of the songs jumps out at me:
'And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us, and if our God is for us then what could stand against us?'
Slowly I begin to realise that these children can still sing joyfully because of something. They are telling us through their performance that bombs and bullets sought to destroy them, but there is a power greater than bombs and bullets at war..and that power is Jesus. They testify to the transformational power of being healed by Jesus.. and suddenly, I am convinced that there is a new sun rising, a new day dawning. There is hope, there is love.