Tag Archives: child soldiers

The Rights of a Child

Children being treated by Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets after chemical attack.  Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement which lays out the social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights of children everywhere.  Since its adoption in 1989, the Convention has been signed by 194 countries.  But its interpretation and adherence vary widely across the globe.

Under the Convention, every child – boy or girl – has the right to life and survival; to protection against violence, abuse, and neglect; and to an education.

Right to Life

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb
” (Ps. 139: 13).

The American Convention on Human Rights declares human life as beginning at conception.  Abortion is, however, legal for some 60% of the world’s population.

The United States has performed over 45 million abortions since 1970 [1].

China performs approximately 23 million abortions annually [2].  Although pre-natal sex determination is now illegal there, it is thought that sex-selective abortions (heavily weighted against females) are a key factor in China’s widely disproportionate number of men.

Right to Survival

Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, ‘Talitha, cumi,’ which is translated, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’  Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age” (Mark 5: 41-42).

Over one third of child deaths worldwide are related to malnutrition [3].  Another 2  million children or more die annually of readily preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia.

Protection against Violence

Thus says the LORD:  ‘Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor.  Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place’ “ (Jer. 22: 3).

During the 10 year period from 1986 – 1996, it is estimated that 2 million children were killed; 4-5 million disabled; and 12 million left homeless by war and conflict [4].  As recently as April of this year, Pres. Bashar al-Assad of Syria again killed dozens of his own men, women, and children in a chemical attack [5].

As many as 300,000 youngsters worldwide have been compelled by government or rebel forces to become child soldiers [6].

In the United States, 2710 children were killed by guns between 2014 – 2017 [7].  This ranged from gang violence to school shootings [8A].  Nearly 6000 children are treated for non-fatal gunshot wounds in this country, annually [8B].

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Kidnapped by Boko Haram

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.”

– “Meditation XVII” by John Donne (1624)

WARNING: Graphic Images

The extremist group Boko Haram has since 2009 led a brutal insurgency in Nigeria with the twin goals of imposing Sharia law and establishing an Islamic regime. Boko Haram is known to utilize child soldiers; engage in the forced conversion, castration, and beheading of non-Muslim men and boys, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage of women and girls.

Mary Patrick was one of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 [1]. The horrors she faced during four months of captivity included cannibalism, the murder of her older sister, and repeated rape by as many as five men at a time.

Given a Muslim name and forced to recite verses from the Quran, over and over, Mary began to lose her identity. Thankfully, she managed to escape before it was too late.

Why the World Matters

Why should this matter to American women? Why should it matter to abuse victims, in particular?

Many abuse victims are likewise brutalized. This tends to focus our attention inward, on short-term survival. But there is a great deal of pain in the world…not ours alone. The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are just one example.

Abuse victims understand pain. That others, too, have suffered should not demoralize us. Rather, it should motivate us to reach out to one another.

Isolated by abuse though we have been, we are part of the world. We have a responsibility toward the world. And the exercise of that responsibility may actually prove healing to us.

Connection

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” as it was known killed an estimated 75-200 million men, women, and children.

The dead grew so numerous that mass graves had to be dug. Venice and other cities banned the ringing of church bells during funeral processions. The sound was thought to discourage the living.

During one outbreak, the poet and clergyman, John Donne, wrote that no man is an island. We are all connected. That is how Christians see things or should. We are connected to one another – whether abuse victims, plague victims, or the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Leaving the Past Behind

No one can blame victims for seeking to forget their experience of abuse. We long to blot abuse off the face of the earth, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, much as we may desire to leave the past behind, we are often bombarded with unwelcome reminders of it [2]. The ongoing barrage of triggers can feel like defeat; the flashbacks, like daily fresh wounds in a war that has gone on for years [3]. We simply cannot move beyond the pain.

While recovery is not a matter of will power, confronting our demons may help us cut them down to size [4]. And using our experience to benefit others can give meaning to our suffering.

Outward toward the World

If we can manage to direct our attention outward toward the world, we may find that what we have suffered has actually increased our empathy for the suffering of others. Their suffering is personal for us, not merely political.

In turn, they may have lessons they can share with us.

Amazingly, Mary Patrick says that her captivity strengthened her faith. “Before, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t read [the] Bible, I didn’t pray. But now I go to church everyday…I am thankful for my life.”

[1] See, Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, “Trained to Kill – Learning to Forgive”, August 2015.

[2] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently accompanied by intense flashes of memory. These flashbacks are triggered by sounds, smells, people, places, thoughts, and feelings which call to mind the traumatic event. Flashbacks can cause physical and emotional reactions, including a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, and profuse sweating.

[3] Coping strategies for dealing with triggers include deep breathing, mindfulness/grounding techniques, exercise, relaxation and self-care, writing, art, music, and prayer. The support of friends and loved ones can be extremely valuable.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Collection, “Prolonged Exposure vs. Supportive Counseling for Sexual Abuse-Related PTSD in Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Edna Foa PhD, Carmen McLean PhD, Sandra Capaldi PsyD, et al, 12/25/13, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/collection.aspx?categoryid=5862.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Cubs

ISIS is recruiting and training child soldiers it proudly calls “Cubs of the Islamic State” [1].

The recruitment and use of children as soldiers is a war crime, though not without precedent. Children – often forcibly conscripted – have acted as soldiers in India, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Myanmar [2].

In Sierra Leone, boys between the ages of 7 and 14 served in the Small Boys Unit. Some 10,000 are thought to have taken part, in that nation’s civil war from 1991-2002 [3]. These children were involved in rape, mutilation, sexual slavery, murder, and other forms of human rights abuses.

Over 30,000 children have taken part in the decades long conflict in Uganda, a substantial number of these actually abducted [4]. Young girls are subject to sexual violence, or required to serve as “wives” of the rebels and have their children.

And now ISIS.

Boys are taught how to use AK-47s and mercilessly behead captives. An Iraqi security official was quoted by NBC News as saying, “They use dolls to teach them how to behead people, then they make them watch a beheading, and sometimes they force them to carry the heads in order to cast the fear away from their hearts.”

Some children are used by ISIS as suicide bombers; others, as human shields. They are, also, indoctrinated in Shariah law. “It’s being done for the same reasons that Hitler had the Hitler Youth,” stated Charlie Winter of the Quilliam Foundation.

Brainwashing these children is a long-term strategy to assure ISIS’ continued existence. “They have to get used to hearing the sounds of explosions and machine guns and missiles and artillery and aircraft,” Abu Dujana explained. “They should get used to seeing blood,” the ISIS fighter said.

Americans can expect to see more blood, as well.


[1] NBC News, “ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State’ ” by Cassandra Vinograd, Ghazi Balkiz and Ammar Cheikh Omar, 11/7/14, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-trains-child-soldiers-camps-cubs-islamic-state-n241821.

[2] Child Soldiers International, http://www.child-soldiers.org/.

[3] Human Rights Watch, “Sierra Leone Rebels Forcefully Recruit Child Soldiers”, 6/1/00, http://www.hrw.org/news/2000/05/31/sierra-leone-rebels-forcefully-recruit-child-soldiers.

[4] UN.org, Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About, “Uganda: Child Soldiers at Centre of Mounting Humanitarian Crisis”, http://www.un.org/events/tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=100.

 FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Common Bond

A rally was held in Nigeria earlier this week to protest that government’s inaction against the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram (translated “Western Education Is Sinful”). The group recently kidnapped some 230 school girls, and is selling them into slavery for as little as $12 or “marrying” them to their captors [1].

Though estimates vary, there are as many as 30 million men, women, and children entrapped in slavery, as I write this.

Included among these are forced laborers recruited under threat of violence, by governments and political parties; chattel slaves abducted from their homes – bought, sold, inherited, and given as gifts; bonded laborers whose loans – impossible of repayment – can be passed from generation to generation; child soldiers; child brides in forced marriages; children engaged in toil destructive of their health and well-being; and sexually exploited women and children, now a basis for sex tourism.

If any of this sounds familiar to Americans, it should. The impact of slavery on our country has been immense. It is a lasting scar the extent of which cannot be summed up in a few neat words.

But slavery has not been confined to a single race or nation. Slavery is referenced as far back as the Code of Hammurabi and the Bible [2]. Slavery existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; in Ireland, Poland, and elsewhere across the globe. It existed among Christians and Muslims. Slave labor camps in the form of gulags were utilized as a political tool by Russia until 1960. They persist in China (under the name “laogai”) and North Korea today.

By focusing exclusively on grievances of the past – albeit, legitimate grievances – we may overlook the chance we have as Americans of every stripe to make a difference in the present.

The evils (and insidious after-effects) of slavery should, if anything, make America the nation foremost in seeking an end worldwide to that institution, once and for all. Instead, we remain a house divided, consumed by our own pain. Continue reading

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