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On raising children in a dangerous world


Elsie Rempel is Director of Education and Nurture at Mennonite Church Canada

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September 15, 2006
-by Elsie Rempel

Winnipeg, Man. — The horror that erupted in Dawson College in Montreal on Sept 13, 2006 has grabbed the attention of many, but it has especially gripped the hearts of parents and students.

As a former elementary teacher, I know schools as a place where teachers are trusted and legally bound by “in loco parentis” to take the place of parents as guardians of their children while they are on the school grounds. Schools and school grounds are to be a safe place. The violent rampage at Dawson College showed parents and children how vulnerable students can be, even in school.

How can parents and educators protect and prepare children for life in a world where evil can erupt and lash out at them, even in places our society says are supposed to be safe? How do followers of Jesus respond? Do we succumb to fear and build ever higher security walls around our children?

Schools are supposed to have emergency plans. Younger ones practice drills that teach them what to do in case a violent person breaks in and endangers their lives from the outside. Anti-bullying programs are offered in many schools to help children and teachers deal with violence and harassment that is present within the student body.

Sometimes I wonder if these programs adequately equip our children to protect themselves from the evil that lurks within and without, or if they help build a culture of fear that shifts our focus to the dangers that lurk rather than the good that is also present.

Lindor Reynolds, Winnipeg Free Press columnist, responded to the horror at Dawson College from a parent’s perspective in her Sept 14 column (I feel terror yet again). She concluded by saying that “There are limited resources in our schools and we need to spend them on education and on programs that teach children not to bully and teachers to recognize those who have become disconnected to their peers. We need to reinforce gun control. Last night, I wept for all the dead children. I suspect many of you did the same.”

Weeping for all the dead children. It echoes back to the slaughter of infants during the early childhood of Jesus. That event harkens the time of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s Rachel is still weeping for her children. Parents across Canada joined her lamentation as they were reminded of the vulnerability of our children by this tragic event in Montreal. Will we respond with silent rage and a desire for revenge as some have responded to 9/11?

Or, will we respond, like Reynolds suggests in her column, by doing what we can to build an alternative and safer society? Jesus called us, from the dangerous and vulnerable context of 1st century Palestinian society, to remember that the Kingdom of God is at hand and is among us. He also challenged us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Fortunately, parents and teachers who, like Reynolds, are “feeling terror once again” can find sources of wisdom and signs of the Kingdom of God among us.

Joyce Schut, a Christian Reformed Church educator and writer who participates in the Canadian Ecumenical Anti-bullying Initiative has written a thoughtful article called Bullies on Board (see the August issue of Banner at

The Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre also has help. The KidsPak issue entitled Peace Roots and Fruits begins with an encouraging true story called Bully no More. It includes anti-bullying role plays and a list of resources on this topic (see as well as

As followers of Jesus, we have additional resources for combating terror. Jesus knows all about becoming vulnerable and living in a dangerous world. But Jesus also knows and shows us that the kingdom is among us. Jesus is among us, shares his peace with us, equips and sends us to be peacemakers even as terror disrupts and threatens the lives of our children.