"Cannon Fodder" and "Sex Slaves": Child Soldiers in Somalia
What started as an ordinary day at school in one of the towns in Somalia soon became a nightmare. One could have heard a pin drop as the students, fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys, read from the books in front of them. The stillness of the afternoon was shattered by the heavy, uneven footfall of people running. The squeal of horror followed as turbaned men wielding machine guns dragged the younger boys away. Instinctively the other boys got up to run, but none escaped the men who took them all away.
The men herded the boys into trucks like cattle to the slaughterhouse. The older boys put up a brave front even though their trembling hands gave away their terror; young boys cried. Not one of them was unaware of the terrible fate that awaited them. They were being kidnapped, abducted, trafficked. They were being recruited by the Al Shabab to fight their militant battles.
Later, in training camps, they were used as domestic workers. The men taught them to use weapons like AK-47s and hand grenades. They were abused. They were forced to witness the assault and killing of people.
After this horrendous and deeply scarring experience they were taken out to fight. They were sent to the frontlines and used as "cannon fodder" to protect adult fighters. A fifteen-year-old boy who escaped the Al Shabab recounted his horror to Human Rights Watch, "Out of all my classmates - about 100 boys - only two of us escaped, the rest were killed."
Children being used as soldiers is hardly a recent phenomenon. Adults have for a long time robbed them of their childhood and exploited them. According to World Vision, "An estimated 250,000 children are forced to fight in wars around the world--some as young as 9." They are used as frontline combatants, suicide bombers, mine sweepers, sex slaves (especially girls), and spies. There have been instances where these children have been forced to kill and maim members of their own family.
Many advocacy groups have been striving to raise awareness about this terrible malaise in order to end this horrific practice. They continue to work tirelessly to restore the childhood of these children.
Pray for the complete overthrow of the practice of using children as soldiers (The Bible, Psalms 12:5).
Pray that each of these children is rescued from the clutches of these militant organizations (The Bible, Psalms 9:9).
Pray that these child soldiers find healing and wholeness in the love of Jesus Christ who said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these"(The Bible, Matthew 19:14).
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 Edition of the Win 10/40 Reporter.
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