'See that you do not despise one of these little ones'.

'See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven' (Matthew 18 : 10).

‘No-one loves me’. ‘Who will feed me’? These are some of the plaintive words spoken by 6 year old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who was abused, tortured and starved by Emma Tustin and his father Thomas Hughes and murdered by Emma Tustin on 7 June 2021. Arthur had lived with his mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow and Thomas Hughes before the couple split up. They were given joint custody. Tustin and Hughes had set up a joint home for her two children and his son Arthur (Tustin's two other children with three men were in care). Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow was convicted of the murder of her then partner Gary Cunningham in 2019. This conviction was later quashed after an appeal but she was found guilty of manslaughter after a retrial at Birmingham Crown Court in July 2021 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Though a one time university student her life had spiralled downwards amid alcoholism and violence. On 3rd December 2021 Thomas Hughes was sentenced to 21 years in prison for manslaughter and Emma Tustin to 29 years in prison for Arthur’s murder.

It is a parable of the times. Consecutive unstable relationships, alcohol and violence, jealousy, wicked step mother behaviour and weak irresponsible fatherhood all combining with inner soul wickedness to take a little boy’s life amid unspeakable cruelty. But it is also a tale of failed social liberalism, failed state control of life and failed political collectivism leading to the erosion of personal responsibility and basic humanity. It is a story of free-for-all morality reaching its apotheosis in the murder of a child. Not the first in recent memory and not likely to be the last.

James Martin from Bearsden wrote a letter to The Herald which was published on 6 December 2021. It was titled by The Herald ‘HOW COULD ANY GOD ALLOW THIS’? He wrote, ‘THESE past few days have seen coverage of the heart breaking story of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, tortured and killed by his father and stepmother. The tormentors of this lovely-looking wee boy have been given long prison sentences, though whether they are enough is doubtful given the evil that obviously resides in those two individuals who, according to court comments, showed no remorse. Most of us reading the reports of how this wee boy was treated and his calls for help: "no one loves me", "who will feed me?", would feel their heart break and yet, and yet. Many of these same people, whilst in despair at just how low some of our fellow human beings can reach, are members of a church of religion and are sure of their faith. Regardless of the conduit that they believe allows them to worship, praise and exalt God – Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many more – they all have in common that God is an all-seeing, benevolent being without sin who looks after us all regardless of our role in society, especially the weak and little children. Some even believe He can forgive sin if certain words are offered. Well, where was this God when the poor wee soul Arthur needed him? What had he done at the age of six to have been abandoned by God and given to the depraved individuals who took the life of this innocent? People of faith will argue we were given free will, but Arthur's death does not square with their belief that God loves us all, and of course when challenged by those of us not taken in by fairy stories when we say how can you square the circle reply: "Ah, but we have faith." It's pathetic and intellectually indefensible. Rest in peace, Arthur’.

James Martin used inhumanity to revile and mock Christians and to despise the language of the love of God. With all that is going on in the world, he has many options for his prejudicial bile. What might be considered is that it is the lack of Judaeo-Christian teaching that caused Arthur’s death. Jews do not kill their children. Neither do Christians. Chairman Mao killed tens of millions of children. So did Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Muslims have slaughtered children throughout the ages. They are still doing so throughout Africa. The Taliban in Afghanistan are letting many children die of malnutrition and disease. The ancient Romans left children out to die. Pre-colonial people in India did the same to new born girls. Child sacrifice was present in the Old Testament times of the middle east. This was also practised among the tribes of South America into our middle ages. It was even part of Druid sacrificial rites in this country in pre-Christian times. James Martin is a really shut off human being, unable to see the answer that is there for us all.

Our national and personal abandonment of Christianity is a factor in the fragmentation of family life. If people do not voluntarily behave for good reasons such as possessing the knowledge of the love of God in Jesus Christ then the state has to make more and more laws. But a western state cannot control the personal lives of citizens. China can. And does. So too North Korea. Christianity sets the benchmark for personal conduct in Jesus Christ. The New Testament is a guide to realised faith relationships with our Maker. St Paul wrote ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord’ (Ephesians 6 :4). The words 'discipline' and 'instruction' do not sit easily with today's laissez-faire attitudes and conduct.

'See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven' (Matthew 18 : 10). These were Jesus' words to adults treating children unkindly. Who is James Martin to gainsay Jesus? Has James Martin founded a world faith? Has he significantly ameliorated the human nature and the human condition? Does he have any remedy which would make bad people good? Christianity has.

Many people have found that thinking about Arthur has been comfortless. He is gone after all. Blue balloons in the sky won’t alter that. Many tears have been shed. Rightly so. Calls for more severe punishment and vengeance are present too. But Christianity offers hope. Jesus Christ offers hope. He is Arthur’s only hope. Jesus tells us that Arthur is in the close presence of God, his Father, our father. Alive. Happy, Blessed. If Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes had known this love of God in their lives on earth, they would not have done what they did.

'See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.'

Robert Anderson 2017

To contact Robert, please use this email address: replies@robertandersonchurch.org.uk