|March 5, 2010|
March Focus on Peace & Conflict
Children are amongst the first casualties of war. In war-affected communities children are vulnerable and are often orphaned. Conflict destroys buildings, infrastructure and communities; and children are left without family, access to food, medical assistance, or education. Armed military groups target children and round them up by force, putting them to work as soldiers or servants. If they try to escape, there are consequences such as violent beatings or being shot. Child soldiers are persons under the age of 18 who are directly or indirectly involved in an armed conflict as part of an armed force.
VOICES OF CHILD SOLDIERS
“I’ve seen people get their hands cut off, and so many men and women burned alive…. So many times I just cried inside my heart because I didn’t dare cry out loud.”
- 14 year-old girl, abducted in January 2000 by the Revolutionary United Front, an armed group in Sierra Leone.
“I joined the army to get food for my mother, my brothers and sisters.”
- Jean-Paul, who left his family and their tiny patch of land for a Rwandan Government Army unit based near Kigali.
Though few engage in combat, most child soldiers suffer terrible hardship. More servants than soldiers, they carry guns and ammunition, gather firewood, cook, do laundry and run errands for their master. (Jean-Paul had 10 masters over the years). Deprived of other adult role models and kept out of school, they become profoundly dependent on the military for material and psychological support.
“I would like you to give a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don’t have to pass through this violence.”
The 15-year-old girl who ended an interview to Amnesty International with this plea was forcibly abducted at night from her home by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an armed opposition movement fighting the Ugandan Government. She was made to kill a boy who tried to escape. She saw another boy being hacked to death for not raising the alarm when a friend ran away. She was beaten when she dropped a water container and ran for cover under gunfire. She received 35 days of military training and was sent to fight the government army.
The number of children under the age of 18 who have been forced to take up arms as child soldiers is estimated to be 300,000. Child soldiers are recruited into non-government military groups (like locally organised rebels) as well as government armed forces. The youngest child soldiers are about 7 years old. Over 50 countries currently recruit children under age 18 into their armed forces.
Groups like War Child aim to provide children with the assistance needed to cope with the immediate and long-term consequences of war. War Child believes that influencing even one child can make a positive and lasting impact on the countries and communities they are working with. They work to advance the cause of peace by sowing hope in the lives of children torn apart by war.
Child Soldiers urgently need your prayers. Take time to read the bible, and pray to set children free from war slavery.
“Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him in prayer. Plead for your children as they faint with hunger in the street”.
Prayer for Child Soldiers (adapted from Isaiah 61):
The Spirit of the Sovererign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the children. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captive child soldiers and release from darkness for the prisoners. To comfort all who mourn and to provide for those who grieve in war torn lands. Reach and rescue children in war, bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of the clothes of war and despair. Sovereign Lord be with each organisation who seek to rescue your children. Amen.
Make a prayer mobile about child soldiers. Children and guns do not go together, so make this prayer mobile and use it to pray each day this week for child soldiers. You will need:
- a coat hanger
- hole punch
- photos of child soldiers
- the prayer for child soldiers (see above)
- plastic toy guns (from a dollar store)
Cut three lengths of string, these will hang from the coat hanger. Take one of the strings and fix the photos of child soldiers to it – make a hole punch in the photo and knot the string through the hole. You can fix a few photos to the one string. Take another piece of string and tie onto it one or more of the toy plastic guns. On another string fix a printout of the prayer (or a prayer you have created) to the string. You can also add some of the testimonies from child soldiers or statistics. Tie the three strings to your coat hanger to complete your prayer mobile. Use your prayer mobile to pray for child soldiers.
See March’s full justice post with all the details here
Drop by next Friday for another post with actions you can take & prayer suggestionsTweet