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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

April 28, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 16




global perspective The Children of War

by Pat Morrison, managing editor of NCR

A few weeks ago I was driving some new neighbors to the grocery store. There's currently a detour on the major street we usually take; a road improvement project is underway. As we rounded a heap of jack-hammered asphalt chunks piled next to the roadway and passed a couple of earthmovers, I explained that this would normally be just a quick trip south, but "it takes a little longer now because the road is out."

Just then, a tiny voice from the back seat came over my left shoulder. It was the family's youngest daughter, who's 6.

"Did they bomb the road?" asked the small voice, softly.

I felt a lump rise in my throat.

"No, honey. They're just making a nice, big road."

With 24/7 TV coverage of the bombing of Iraq being played out before young and impressionable eyes, such a question would be understandable from any American first-grader.

What made it especially poignant was that the question came from a young Afghan refugee child whose family has just been resettled in Kansas City. At age 6, Fawzia has experienced nothing but war and violence - the first three years of her young life were spent in Afghanistan, where her father was murdered by the Taliban; the last three were in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where marauding clans frequently terrorized the camps.

For Fawzia - as for thousands of children around the world, from Afghanistan to Sudan, Belfast to Palestine - bombs and gunfire, destruction and death are everyday realities.

This child had no idea what it means to have road improvement, to beautify a neighborhood, to build something nice. Her experience was only of seeing things destroyed.

What was most troubling to me was that there was no overt fear in this little girl's voice as she asked, "Did they bomb the road?" It was asked as matter-of-factly as an American first-grader might ask if the school bus is coming.

When human beings grow up surrounded by terror, it too easily becomes internalized. Violence is seen as normal. People bomb roads, and other people. Houses are demolished, together with the families in them. People die, and with them their dreams.

When the United States and our allies have finished our noble work of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime and hunting down Osama bin Laden in our quest to end terrorism, I wonder, will we dedicate the same time, the same commitment, the same amount of defense dollars to liberate the children of war from the terrors they have come to see as normal?

So as anticipation builds for our troops to return home and the tanks roll out and the humanitarian aid begins to trickle in, now is the time, isn't it, to ask: What will we do to "rebuild" the children of war?

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