UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Talking to kids about evil

Children should know that atrocities happen

By Brian Platt

I spent the past month working for a news agency in Vancouver. One of my last assignments was to help cover the grisly delivery of a human hand and foot to two Vancouver elementary schools. It’s now been confirmed that the body parts are from Lin Jun, the Chinese student killed in Montreal, allegedly by Luka Rocco Magnotta.

As I talked to parents outside the schools, one interesting question came up consistently: are you going to tell your child about this?

Some of the students at these schools were as young as six. Many of the parents said they would have a serious talk about it with their children, but there were a few who said they would do their best to keep the news away from their child’s ears.

Now, I’m not a parent, and won’t be for a long time (that’s the plan, anyway). But if I had kids of my own, I don’t think I could justify keeping them ignorant about such an event — particularly when it happens right at their school.

There are limits, of course. Six years old is probably too young for a talk about murder; it would certainly depend on the relative maturity of the particular child. News also came out this week of a Quebec high school teacher who apparently showed his students the extremely gruesome video of Jun being killed; this is obviously going too far.

Yet I feel very strongly that Canadians and Americans have become way too disconnected from the abject conditions in which millions of people in the world still live. Those growing up in developing countries have daily reminders of senseless death and the horrible cruelty that humans are capable of doing to each other. And we are too reticent to talk to our children about why body parts have turned up at their school?

I’m not saying we should punish ourselves with every brutal murder, but the further we retreat into a cocoon of safety, the less able we are to understand those who live in abhorrent circumstances. In other words, social justice work that has value requires a certain understanding of the evil acts that our fellow humans are capable of.

A difficult and perhaps obvious continuation of this discussion is how a churchgoing child reconciles such misery with a loving God. However they do so, it seems to me that church may be one place where a young person hears most often about calamities in faraway lands. When children pray for those suffering through disasters and see Mission and Service pamphlets, they are confronted with a reality they may not always be exposed to in school or by friends and family. This is, to my mind, an ultimately healthy thing.

Author's photo
Brian Platt is a master of journalism student at Carleton University.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Indigenous actor and singer Tom Jackson has named his annual Christmas charity concert after the song. (Photo: Craig Koshyk)

6 must-hear recordings of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

From a beloved version by Tom Jackson to one translated into Mi’kmaw, Jesous Ahatonnia has been adapted in many creative ways over the years.

Promotional Image


The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

Why we pay our interns a fair wage

by Jocelyn Bell

But $15 an hour is only a small step in the right direction.

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


December 2018

The complex history of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

A product of 17th-century Jesuit missionaries, the popular hymn was written to introduce the Wendat people to Christianity. The Observer explores its troubled origins and continued use today.


November 2018

Christians should stop using God to sanctify adoption

by Jackie Gillard

This adoptive mom writes that she's frustrated by the common evangelical Christian message that adoption is always the best outcome for a child.


November 2018

Christmas music was meaningless to me, so I started listening to this instead

by Paul Fraumeni

Tunes about snow and chestnuts and silent nights didn't bring the power of the holiday home to this writer, so he found a new soundtrack.

Promotional Image