SOURCE: Vision Media

October 15, 2008 03:40 ET

Social Issues Arise as Children Are Sent to War -- Vision.org

Vision.org Discusses the Consequences to Children Serving as Soldiers

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - October 15, 2008) - Hopes for peace in eastern Africa have dimmed with reported attacks recently on villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan by Ugandan rebels. The region has seen ongoing hostilities for more than twenty years. Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict, and more than one million people have been displaced. In "Children at War," Vision.org contributor Michelle Steele discusses the consequences to children serving as soldiers and outlines the social issues and the challenges facing those working to help them.

The harmful effects on the lives of children due to this and other intra-state conflicts around the world cannot be underestimated. These social issues are especially alarming because the reality is that children are being abducted and used as soldiers for government and rebel military forces.

There are international efforts to prohibit the use of children in armed forces. Sixty-six countries have signed the Paris Principles, aimed at demobilizing and rehabilitating these children. Unfortunately, getting some countries to sign on to these efforts has been difficult because of protracted military actions. As Steele points out, "Children are a cheap and plenteous resource for military commanders in need of a steady troop supply to war zones."

While some older teens join the fight voluntarily, too many children are forced recruits, serving against their will. Steele outlines the indoctrination process used by abductors to "produce unquestioning obedience." Fear and deprivation desensitize some children to the horrors of war. Brutal tactics are often employed to ensure that children stay with their abductors.

However, for those children who escape or are rescued, the obstacles faced next are multifaceted. What future is there for children who have been recruited and armed to the (baby) teeth, and then sent to fight in some of the world's most horrific war zones?

According to Steel, their potential is severely compromised. "Children that are successfully rescued from combat, or who happen to survive until the conflict's conclusion, face an enormous challenge if they are to return to normal civilian life," she says.

In an interview with Steel, psychologist Michael Wessels agreed. Wessells, professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, is also the senior advisor on child protection for Christian Children's Fund.

According to Wessels it isn't only the obvious hurdles of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and family re-integration that confront these children. There are community hurdles as well.

"Probably the biggest single source of distress for most child soldiers that I've worked with is the fact that when they return home they are isolated," Wessels told Steel. "They are called rebels and troublemakers. That is very painful, and it's also very threatening, because sometimes people not only call them rebels but will engage in reprisal attacks… there is a shattering of the social bonds that tie communities together; it's each person against the other."

Join Vision.org's Michelle Steel as she explores what is needed to give these children back some semblance of a childhood -- and a life.

About Vision:

Vision.org is an online magazine with quarterly print issues that feature in-depth coverage of current social issues, religion and the Bible, history, family relationship topics and insights into philosophical, moral and ethical issues in society today. For a free subscription to the Vision quarterly magazine, visit their web site at http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/default.aspx.

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