(ANS – Rome) – The exploitation of children as soldiers is unfortunately a common practice in many of the conflicts that are still active in the twenty-first century. The International Day against the use of child soldiers on 12 February should be a warning of what remains to be done to eradicate this cruel and inhuman practice. As Salesians, we believe that the school and the courtyard are the right place for the child or adolescent, not the battlefield.
The showing of the documentary “Alto el Fuego” (Ceasefire) in Rome, Brussels and Madrid has allowed people to see the real faces – those of Manuel and Catalina – of this terrible reality. Even though this phenomenon is far removed from the everyday life of many of us, it makes us renew our commitment to put an end to this exploitation.
As Salesians, we highlight three key aspects:
The child is a victim and is never to blame for his or her situation: even in cases where they joined an armed group “voluntarily”, the decision is actually enforced by many forms of poverty, or is the only way out from various forms of abuse. It is essential to work for the restoration of their rights as citizens, with a multidisciplinary team of professionals.
Education is the key to success in the long process of reintegration: an education appropriate to the situation of each individual is essential for their full social inclusion. It is imperative that the educational programme be individualized, adapted to the circumstances and the situation of each individual. At the same time, it is necessary to combine the various professional, cultural and affective aspects of a person
Prevention as a lasting solution to the recruitment of children as soldiers: prevention is in the DNA of every educator. We have to implement all the strategies available to prevent the recruitment of minors, given that the personal, social and financial costs of these strategies are far lower than the cost of the reintegration processes currently underway.
One of the key proposals of “Ciudad Don Bosco” was the preparation of materials to prevent recruitment.
The impact of “Alto el Fuego” is going far beyond the borders of Colombia and is showing the real faces of the bloody conflict that Colombia experienced.