Out In The Streets

By Father Abraham Aquino CICM

Street children are found all over the world. Most people are quick to conclude that poverty is the root cause. But if you look more deeply into the problem, you’ll find that parents are often blamed. Father Abraham, a missionary in Zambia, tells us why.

I visited the parents of a street child whom we had taken home a few months before. In the beginning, everything was going well. He was going to school. But after a while he went back on the streets. On a few occasions I tried to convince him to go home, but he refused. So I decided to find out from his mother what had happened. She told me that the child was stubborn and preferred to stay on the streets. I asked her what her plan was for him. She said, ‘Bring him to the police to be beaten so that he will learn his lesson.’ Her statement hit me like a bomb. I got angry. Is this the best a mother can think of for her child? I said ‘Goodbye’ and told her sarcastically that I’d do exactly what she had suggested.

A burden, not a responsibility

This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered such uncaring parents. In another home, a man introduced himself as the ‘uncle’ of a street kid. When we confronted him we found out that he was the father but was afraid we would report him to the police for allowing his child to be on the streets. He had eight children by his wife and four others by two other women. So he thought of letting one of the older children to go on the streets as ‘a way of lightening my burden.’ Poor child! She had to suffer because of her father’s irresponsibility.

Poor but never abandoned

There is a lot of poverty around us. But I would never accept poverty as a legitimate reason for parents for not fulfilling their parental obligations. Back in the Philippines, my family also lived in poverty. I remember my father fishing in the river despite heavy rain. And the whole family had to go to the rice field during harvest season. These were difficult times but my parents would make sure there was food on our table.

I’m hurt to see children roaming around the streets, filthy and famished. If only parents truly understood their obligations, these children would have the future that is rightfully theirs.

Salamat sa Nova Et Vetera