A healthy society defends the vulnerable

Article in the Cleethorpes Chronicle  – 14.08.09

The name and memory of Peter Connelly, known for so long as Baby P, joins a sad and far too long list of children who have died at the hands of those whom they could have expected to give them the love, protection and security which is surely the right of every child.  This week the release of Peter’s name, along with the names of those who were responsible for his wicked injuries and death has brought Peter’s short and tragic life back to public attention.

There can be no excuses for Tracy Connelly, Stephen Barker or Jason Owen whose actions and inactions caused and allowed Peter to suffer so much.   Once again we are reminded that the vulnerable – whether they be young or old – are at the mercy of those who have them in their care.  Yet vulnerability is at the heart of being human for it is the stuff of our early years, of our old age and, for some, it is their experience throughout life.

A symptom of a healthy family is the care and attention it gives to its most vulnerable members and the same is surely true for a community.  It is how we invest in and support the most vulnerable in society which reveals the quality of our communities.  As we reprioritise our public spending in the wake of the current recession, we must be wary of those politicians who would look for savings in our support for the vulnerable, the sick and the casualties of modern life.  As I see it, their care, through the work of the social services and other agencies, is a good gauge of the health of our nation.

Jesus said “By their fruits you shall know them” and that remains a good measure for many things, not least in our attitude to the vulnerable.   Baby Peter is a sad reminder that when the strong take advantage of the vulnerable – then pain, suffering, misery, death and wickedness are ever present.  The only remedy is for the strong and capable to be vigilant and to demand that the vulnerable are supported and protected.  Another phrase of Jesus comes to mind: “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”.

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