Pope speaks out about the tragedy of child soldiers in Africa
Pope Frances was moved by the plight of thousands of young children who are still being taken from their homes in many parts of Africa and forced to fight. “Unfortunately, news continues to reach us of violent and brutal clashes in the region of Central Kasai of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” said Francis, stressing he “intensely” feels the grief of the victims, especially the many children torn from their families and from school to be used as soldiers.
“Child soldiers are a tragedy,” the Pope stated: “I renew my heartfelt appeal to the conscience and the responsibility of the National Authorities and of the International Community, so that appropriate and timely decisions are taken to help these brothers and sisters of ours.”
“Let us pray for them and for all people suffering in other parts of the African continent and of the world due to violence and war.”
Other prominent church officials have also spoken out against the use of child soldiers in war. Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of Jubo, South Sudan said that if we want to stop the widespread use of child soldiers in his country’s conflict, the fighting must end: “The only solution we have been saying is stop fighting, stop war, so that we fight in dialogue. Because there are reasons why these people, these child soldiers are fighting.”
Recruitment of child soldiers in South Sudan is among the worst in the world with an estimated 16,000 children fighting since the conflict intensified in December 2013. Since many conscripts don’t want to fight, the government has resorted to the use of more militia-type fighters, or even forcing children to fight, the archbishop explained.
However, Loro admitted that the problem is not just about children being taken by the army. It is also concerns young boys who willingly choose to fight against the government. “It’s because they feel the problem, they are aggrieved, they feel that there is an injustice in the administration of the government. They are not even recruited by anybody,” he said.
Christians in the country are united in trying to find a peaceful solution and bring an end to the violence. Loro stressed that the only solution “is to stop fighting and talk peace. This is what we are working on together.”
A few months ago Archbishop Loro travelled to Rome alongside Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan.
The three of them met with Pope Francis to discuss the desperate situation of their country. Different Christian communities have always spoken about the situation of the country together Loro said, so it’s “perfectly in place” that the three of them would come to the Vatican together to voice concerns surrounding the state of their country.
The meeting focused on current tensions dividing the Sudanese people “to the detriment of coexistence in the country.” Mention was made of the “good and fruitful collaboration” among differing Christian Churches, “who wish primarily to offer their contribution to promoting the common good, protecting the dignity of the person, protecting the helpless and implementing initiatives for dialogue and reconciliation.”
The three Christian leaders highlighting their joint collaboration and stressed their commitment to working together in “a spirit of communion and unity, to service to the population, promoting the spread of a culture of encounter and sharing.” They extended an official invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country, as a sign of solidarity and peace.