According to one source (and they all vary quite markedly) around 300,000 child soldiers exist in the world (a third of them in the continent of Africa). These generally are children who have been enticed, coerced or forced into becoming soldiers (some, usually orphans join because they have nowhere else to go). The lower limit seems to be somewhere around eight years and these children are used to kill and witness killings and atrocities - and no one (i would hope) can ever endorse this.
I personally support groups who seek to make people aware of the situation and plight of the child soldiers and would hope that others might too (Red Hand Day 12th Feb - have I mentioned that before).
Talking to people yesterday there were many who were saddened that, as ever certain groups time their open letters and edicts to coincide with Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. Their opinions, and the rarely ever presented offer to dialogue, would have been just as valid next week as it would in the last working day before our nation remembers. But then they wouldn't have been talked about (nor perhaps as universally rejected by those who spoke to me) if they'd have waited, would they?
Now I understand that many are confused by the whole 'Child' soldier issue and thought that, as a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd give you a little graphical assistance based on what people told me yesterday:
Now it's easy to understand it really - a sixteen year old who is education was generally regarded by ALL I asked to be A CHILD.
A child who is eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen even - and is given a weapon and told to kill or maim was also declared by ALL to be A CHILD SOLDIER.
A sixteen year old* who marries was also regarded by ALL as a MAN (and I was mazed how many told me of marriages in their families of sixteen and seventeen year olds).
Then came the million-pound (I don't do dollars!) question:
What about a sixteen year old who joins the Army?
Simple they all said - He's a SOLDIER and MAN and then many added ('And I'd be proud if he was my son, grandson, nephew, etc.')
So I think yesterday was a bit sad:
Sad in the timing which, intentional or not (and you can make up your own mind on that) distracted from Remembrance as the proper focus at this time.
Sad because I had so many people have a go at me because of the 'bleeding heart, meddling Christians who should stick to [so many different ideas fit here] and !*!*! *** sticking their oar in where they had no business to be' - Because this is everyone's business - Child Soldiers are, or should be, an affront to every decent person and something that is indeed the Church's business (of course those who signed were members of a church - but were not 'The Church'.
Sad because we need people to take up the cause of the third of a million abused and damaged children who find themselves dragged into conflict as combatant and worse (and believe me, there is worse).
So please - don't lose focus regarding child soldiers and don't blame 'The Church' - it's just some of 'The Church' just like it's not all of 'The World' that does these wicked things - there are balanced, rational and sane people in both.
Nigel and Sharon Davis - source Daily Mirror