Vatican City, Dec 2, 2016 / 04:15 am
In his latest prayer video, which highlights his prayer intention for the month of December, Pope Francis focused on putting an end to the phenomenon of child-soldiers, which he called a “form of slavery.”
The video, published Dec. 1, shows a soldier suiting up for battle in the dark, boots, gun and ammo included. When the soldier’s face is shown, it’s a young boy with the lower half of his face covered by a bandana.
As the child pulls the bandana down revealing his entire face, Francis’ voice is heard in his native Spanish, saying: “in this world, which has developed the most sophisticated technologies, weapons are sold that end up in the hands of child-soldiers.”
The scene then changes to show children running and playing in the sun, while the Pope says “we must do everything possible so that the dignity of children may be respected, and end this form of slavery.”
“Whoever you are, if you are moved as I am, I ask you to join me in this prayer intention: that the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over,” he says, as the faces of smiling children flash across the screen.
Recruitment of child-soldiers is a problem largely isolated to Africa, as well as some countries in the Middle East and Asia. South Sudan is among the worst in the world when it comes to the phenomenon, with an estimated 16,000 child-soldiers fighting since the country’s conflict intensified in December 2013.
Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of Jubo, South Sudan was in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis in October, and told CNA after the encounter that a primary concern for child-soldiers is what violence does to a young person’s psyche, particularly as they transition into adulthood.
Since many soldiers recruited by the government don't want to fight, the government has resorted to the use of more militia-type fighters, or forces children to fight for them, he said.