Listening to a BBC Radio 4 program this week I was shocked to learn a number of things: how young children soldiers are, how aggressive they are and how things are changing from a coercive to honour based version of recruitment.
Historically, we’ve probably all seen programs and news bulletins describing how children have been forced into fighting in places such as Cambodia and Myanmar. Aid organisations now estimate that 300,000 children worldwide are still involved in warfare.
What shocked me further is that now it seems there parts of the world where children are being less coerced and more “honoured” into fighting. To protect and defend the honour of their family or community and to be honoured themselves as heroes. The program reported that children are proud to fight in places such as Northern Iraq. Their parents often urging them into such dangerous and life changing situations.
The journalist on the BBC program then begged the question of whether children should be held responsible if they are no longer being forced but are willing participants in war and killing. In parallel I noticed James Nesbitt is campaigning for Child Soldiers International saying that even one child soldier in the world is too many.
Where do we begin?
Before entering the fray of culture clash so we can then be accused of bringing “correct” western worldview to communities that produce willing killers at the age of 12, we need to ask bigger questions. Why is this happening and why are people in such places feeling as if this is the only solution?
Why are parents happy to send their third child into war zones to defend the honour of the 2 siblings already killed in action?
I’m not sure I have the answers but talking about this issue is a start. We must be willing to engage with world issues like these, not closing ourselves off because it is too difficult to see what good we can do. We must raise awareness and we must pray!