Wounded childhood of the world

Publish date 18-01-2024

by Luca Periotto

FROM JORDAN TO JERUSALEM, PASSING THROUGH INDIA AND MEXICO, IN THE SHADOW OF A VERY HIGH WALL THAT EVEN CUTS THE SEA IN TWO. Faces of children struggling with a fight for survival that began too soon for them. But in their eyes there is not only the desire for food, water and all the resources necessary to live. There is certainly more, the need for new opportunities emerges forcefully, the possibility of emerging from destinies already written for them by someone else. Every face is a story that tells us that, despite being born in a specific context and in specific cultures and traditions, we will never be able to totally identify with them. Because the dignity of each one calls us to fully realize our identity, remaining faithful to our most intimate personal nature. It is the profound, very profound theme of freedom that many - too many - are not allowed to exercise due to the material and cultural poverty in which they are entangled.

CHILDREN USED AS WAR TROPHY AND NEGOTIABLE WEAPON. The wounded childhood, which we absentmindedly notice only after the chilling number of victims of yet another tragedy broadcast on television channels. A testimony on childhood through various theaters in the world, from the tents of refugee camps in the Middle East to Africa, passing through the geopolitical changes that have tormented the countries of the East to reach that part of Europe where the flow of migrants in escape from conflicts becomes a reality closer to our eyes but not enough to make us indignant. In Israel as in Ukraine, children are bargaining chips. It is the drift of fundamentalism and political extremism. The children kidnapped by Hamas and used as an unconventional weapon in Tel Aviv, while the IDF (Israel Defense Force) indiscriminately bombs hospitals and schools in Gaza where armed groups of Hamas hide using the same children as human shields, causing the death of over four thousand. In Ukraine, some NGOs report twenty thousand minors taken from their families and forcibly deported to Russia since the invasion began. The UNICEF report is of 1,500 children who have died from 2018 to today crossing the Mediterranean in search of an escape route from wars in their own country. In 2023 alone, 289 were lost at sea. Nothing has changed, thinking back to more than thirty years ago during the siege of Sarajevo where 1,600 children lost their lives. They are not just numbers, behind each of them there is a date of birth, a time to be lived that is not lived, dreams dreamed where that childhood is taken away, annulled and erased. A life, in the best case scenario whose fate will pass from one refugee camp to another. A narrative where the only key to understanding links the images of different worlds to a thin thread, that of a window wide open onto childhood which is not just an open wound dripping blood, but goes beyond all imagination to become a cry of pain that is lost in the indifference of those who don't want to see.

«THEY PAY BETTER FOR GLASS BOTTLES, PLASTIC COMES LATER. IF YOU ARE FAST YOU CAN EVEN EARN A DOLLAR A DAY": SOKHIM TELLS ME, the only boy with whom I can converse a little in English. They wear rubber boots and work with their faces wrapped in heavy rags, to protect themselves from the unbearable stench. A group of about 20 children with sticks that end in hooks surround the truck that has just arrived. They form two neat rows. The little ones are immersed up to their waists in a pile of rubbish. As the truck opens its tailgate, they dive in, regardless of the danger, to collect the plastic and glass to place in the bags. They spend up to 14 hours a day searching through waste for glass, plastic and metal to resell. Between the smoke from burning waste, the flies and the nauseating smell, the words take on new meanings. This is where a child defined the word happiness as: "seeing the sun shine every day." Twenty kilometers along National Road 6, there is a small village known by local NGOs as "Siem Reap's dirty little secret", a dilapidated slum built around the edge of a well. Approximately two hectares of land filled with rubbish produced in the city. In this hell, every day entire families live and work sifting through waste in the hope of finding a glass bottle or tin can. Rubbish for all of us, but not for the inhabitants of Anlong Pi who are hoping for the luck of reselling it, earning 2,000 riel corresponding to 50 US cents per bag.

Luca Periotto

NP Dicembre 2023

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