Child Soldiers and Moral Society

Few issues present so clear a
picture of

society than the recruitment of children as soldiers and

abandonment after
they’ve been used.

Few issues present such clear-cut moral depravity as the recruitment of children into militias and the sexual enslavement of young girls by militias. And to call it recruitment is to be generous. In fact, children are coerced, kidnapped, rounded up and forced to become killers. Girls are abducted and held captive by psychological abuse if not physical restraint.

At a formative time in their lives these kids are lied to, exploited and, ultimately, traumatized. Some kids I’ve seen are virtually non-verbal they’re so damaged.

A report by Amnesty International cited on CNN about child soldiers in Congo gives a partial look at this disgusting dilemma. Amnesty says 11,000 children are unaccounted for, forty percent of whom are young girls who most assuredly have been and are being abused by adults in the aftermath of years of fighting in Congo.

It’s among the dirtiest of the many disgusting outcomes of war. And for traumatized children it doesn’t get better when peace finally comes because the psychological damage continues long after the adults who have abused them move on. Some of the children in Liberia are only now being given attention two years after peace agreements were signed. Some Liberian youth have grown up having never attended school in a society at war.

Child soldiers in Mozambique are now becoming teenagers and young adults, and many bear the psychological scars of abuse. Some cannot return to their families because they are unacceptable. Families yearn for reunification yet fear what the children might do now, having been taught to wantonly kill or dismember innocent people.

There are places where these children are being comforted and re-oriented. Church World Service, Save the Children and the United Nations are all working with traumatized children in Africa and Asia. The General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church has been a long-standing advocate for protecting and securing justice for children.

The least we can do is offer financial support. But we also can become advocates for preventive measures that are long-term ways to address the instability that results from poverty and corruption.

The effort to prevent poverty may seem distant from the immediate needs of these children, but it isn’t. Where poverty exists the door is open for vulnerable, powerless people to be abused and exploited by cynical, power-hungry, greedy people. Creating stable, productive societies where each citizen has a voice and is protected by laws, addresses the problem of child soldiers by preventing the unstable conditions that open the door to war and strife.

I have long thought that we would do better to put more effort and money into education, economic development and leadership training than into bullets and guns, and we’d get a better return on investment.

When I see kids wrecked by war I think it’s the most moral thing we can do.

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