Every child deserves to live in peace - Robbie Butler MLA

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Every child deserves to live in peace - Robbie Butler MLA

When a child cries, it doesn't matter what their religion, ethnicity, or ideology is. The tears of an Israeli child are the same as the tears of a Palestinian child.  All children are equal. They trust, they fear and they hurt just the same. All children deserve to be loved and protected. All children deserve to live in peace.

This week, I attended an event at Stormont that reviewed the successes achieved and the outstanding issues still to be addressed in delivering on the rights of children in Northern Ireland. These discussions moved me to consider how we as a world have reacted over recent weeks to the atrocities and war in the Middle East and its perverse Impact on the children from that region.

As a parent and a politician, I am deeply passionate about the equality of all children, regardless of their perceived religious, ethnic, or ideological background.

Tragically, as we witness on news programs and correspondence from Israel and Gaza, we have been shown heart-breaking images of children suffering in circumstances we cannot begin to comprehend. One of the most insidious problems we face here in the relative safety of our homes though is the proliferation of propaganda and spin.

When People Before Profit recently claimed in their newsletter that the attack on Israel was targeting only military targets; “Since Hamas’s attack on occupying Israeli forces on Saturday propaganda and misinformation operations have spun into action”. They deployed their very own office of propaganda and misinformation. They deliberately ignored the carnage caused by Hamas terrorists and they attempted to re-write history to hide the pain, loss, death and hostage taking of hundreds of Israeli children.

Those who use such disgusting tactics to hide or condone the unspeakable acts we have seen, need to be challenged for their lack of humanity.

Last week I spent the best part of a day in meetings with leading representatives of both the Jewish and Muslim community. I spent time listening and trying better to understand the complexities of the conflict in Israel and Palestine.  In lengthy and often emotional discussion there was more compassion and understanding shown by both community representatives than from many politicians and commentators from this Island.

Our own history is littered with examples where children have been the victims of terrorism and conflict.

Even this week, as we remember the Shankill bombing thirty years ago, we look to the murder, injury and mental torment that this atrocity brought to our children.

This is only one of so many despicable acts that took the lives and futures of a generation of our children, from every background, during those dark days we call ‘The Troubles’.

Thankfully, we found a better way. We took a route that rejected fear and inspired hope creating a peace which has saved a new generation of children from facing the daily shootings and bombings that many of us experienced.

It is not a perfect peace by any measure, and there is still much to do to dismantle the final components of this dark chapter of our history, but it is our duty to continue to make that peace better, to give every child in Northern Ireland that opportunity to be the best they can be.

This message must be one that we try to deliver to the Middle East. There can be peace, there can be a future where children are happy, safe and loved.

It requires sacrifice and vision, belief and humility but it can be achieved if all those involved are prepared to put their children first.

I am committed to working with others to build a better future for all our children. I believe that we can create a society where children are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their background.

 Unfortunately, there are still far too many who see the tears, suffering and death of children as a tool that can be used to spread their message of hatred and evil.

Those who continue to promote a message of ‘an eye for an eye’ must recognise that, ultimately, it is their own children they are blinding.