Christian leaders stand ready to help after tragic child deaths

(Photo: Unsplash/Sandy Millar)

Christian leaders stand ready to work with the government to stop more children being harmed following the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

Six-year-old schoolboy Arthur died after being subjected to months of abuse by his father and stepmother who have both been jailed.

Just weeks after the government announced an independent review into the circumstances leading to his death, the nation was left reeling again as harrowing details emerged of the death of 16-month-old Star Hobson.

Last week her mother, Frankie Smith, was given eight years for causing or allowing her death, while her girlfriend Savannah Brockhill was jailed for life for the toddler's murder.

A local review into Star's death will feed into the wider national review into Arthur's case, which is being led by Annie Hudson and is due to be completed by May 2022.

An open letter to the government has been signed by 21 leaders from Christian denominations, safeguarding agencies and faith-based charities offering their "full cooperation and assistance" with the review.

"The murders of Arthur and Star are the latest in a catalogue of high-profile deaths of children in living memory, including Victoria Climbié (2000), Peter Connolly (2008), Kristy Bamu (2010), and Daniel Pelka (2012) among many other names that we don't know," the letter says.

"It should not take another child's tragic and avoidable death for us to respond to ongoing challenges of protecting vulnerable children in our nation, however it would also be wrong not to be inspired by Arthur's cry for help to redouble our efforts to keep all children safe."

The letter has been coordinated by Dr Krish Kandiah, Christian social entrepreneur, and Justin Humphreys, CEO of independent Christian safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight.

They say that a "whole community" response is needed to reduce the risk to vulnerable children.

The letter also acknowledges that the Church itself has on occasions "failed to protect children with devastating consequences", but says that because of this experience, Christians "are therefore both obligated and motivated to do better, and offer to share our own experience, expertise and insights with honesty and humility".

Dr Kandiah said, "As the panel begins its review, we felt it was important to signal to the government that a society-wide response is needed to ensure that no child faces the unthinkable harm suffered by Arthur and Star.

"We wanted the government to know that we as the Church are already heavily involved in the lives of vulnerable children across the country and have both a unique insight to offer the review and a moral responsibility to step up to the task of ensuring every child is kept safe from harm."

Humphreys said, "There are fewer tragedies that occur in society that are more painful to contemplate than the death of a child. When a child's life is ended by the selfish and cruel acts of another person, we ought to be troubled to the core.

"The Church in the UK can and must take every opportunity to play a part in preventing the abuse of any child it has contact with. Standing together and reaching out into our communities to help create safer places we can make a difference - maybe just for one child or maybe for many. This is what we are called to do."