Holy See urges UN to protect children in armed conflict

Gaza conflict Credit andlun1 via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA andlun1 via Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0).

After a recent report confirmed that violence against children has increased in conflict zones, the Holy See is urging the United Nations and local governments to protect the innocent youth who are caught in the crossfire of violence around the world.

"Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations," read a recent statement from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

"These crimes must be condemned in the strongest possible terms," he said.

The archbishop's statements came during the United Nation's Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, which took place on Aug. 2 and was organized by the country of Malaysia.

The council reviewed the Secretary General's report on children caught in armed conflict, which confirmed that the 2015 year had only brought "increased intensity of grave violations."

The report also noted that tens of thousands of young girls and boys have fallen prey to forced recruitment, sexual violence, and torture amidst the chaos of conflict zones. Over four thousand abductions had been reported in 2015 alone.

Although some progress such as counter-terror legislation has been passed in many instances, Archbishop Auza urged the UN and local governments to do more. He suggested a reintegration program for recovering child-soldiers and victims of sexual abuse as a way to heal the wounds inflicted on the innocent.

"A solution to the plight of children caught in armed conflict, in particular of child soldiers, requires sensitivity to finding ways to reintegrate these children back into their own communities," the archbishop said.

He also encouraged an attitude of mercy and affirmation within the communities where the children are reintegrated, and spoke out against any prejudice that might hinder the acceptance of these children within their families.

"While we witness barbaric acts beyond anyone's imagination committed also by child soldiers, we must remember that these children are exploited and manipulated into what they have become," Archbishop Auza stated, saying "we must also build pathways for counseling and reconciliation."

Archbishop Auza denounced the continued airstrikes against schools and hospitals as intentional disregard for International Humanitarian Laws. He called upon the United Nations to "implement stronger measures for the protection of children in armed conflict."

"In the fight against non-State armed groups and terrorism, States are urged to ensure that their responses to all threats against peace and security are conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law, to ensure that children are not victimized twice," the archbishop continued.

Urging the support from international communities, Archbishop Auza went on to say that "the obligation to put an end to barbaric acts against children caught in armed conflict is incumbent upon every one of us."

"The Holy See hopes that the plight of children caught in armed conflict will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue."

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