In a week where the news has been dominated by the tragic deaths of 3 very young children in the UK, I have also been thinking also about the sad news regarding the death of 3 teenage girls.
The first is local girl Ciara Park whose life was taken from her in the blink of an eye, but in one of the most horrible ways imaginable within the context of our daily regular lives in this part of the world. Something as normal as Christmas shopping with her father and younger brother on the main shopping street in Belfast turned into a nightmare and has caused almost as much hand wringing and questioning within our community as the death of baby P has in the wider UK media. Let us not ever forget the pain of Ciara's family, nor of the poor man who was driving the bus which killed her, as we question what our community's response should be to this awful tragedy.
The second sad tale is a death which is yet to happen and steeped in pathos and yet is inspirational. Hannah Jones is a brave 13 year old who has convinced child protection officials in Hereford not to force her to have a heart transplant, after treatment for leukaemia earlier in her life caused a heart condition. She has decided herself that the risk of the proceedure is too great and she would perfer to enjoy what time she has left with her family and freinds. Her father is reported as saying, "It is an incredible thing for a young person who has been through such a lot to have the bravery to stand up for her rights. We're so very proud of our little girl." Who could not be inspired by how Hannah has responded to her painful circumstances.
The final story which has caused me shock and sadness this week was also known about before it happened, at least it was in the community in which this shocking act occurred. It is breathtaking in it's brutality to read of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow a 13 year old girl in Somalia who was stoned to death by a mob of 1000 men. The Belfast Telegraph report on the incident makes gruesome reading, so you may want to avoid it, but it goes on to explain how Aisha was killed because "(her) crime was to be raped and then report it. After being attacked by three men her family went to the Al-Shabab Islamist militia to report the crime. She was detained and accused of adultery. No effort was made to identify or arrest the rapists". It was even worse that, as some did attempt to intervene, one man was shot and wounded and an 8 year old boy was wounded. No words can adequately respond to this outrage - will the international community respond or even be aware of what happened? Will the people who did that get away with it? How come the media has not picked up on this? Yet again I am puzzled at what decides what makes our headlines and what is confined to the background.
As these 3 young people have come into my head very regularly this week, it has caused me to reflect on the messed up nature of the world in which we live. It is hard to find something postive to take from this - 3 families devastated by very different but equally horrible events in a world tainted by sin and distorted from the world which was originally created. 3 incidents which cause us to ask questions about the sinfulness of people, the priorities of our society and even the role of a just and righteous God.
As we remember 3 girls, although they are from different cultures in our world, may we thank God for the teenagers who are in our sphere of influence and be resolute in our efforts to do all we can to support them, value them and help them make their mark on this world. For those of us who love Jesus, may we do all we can to point them to Him and may He provide comfort to those whose pain only He can fully understand.