300,000 Child-Soldiers Fighting in 36 Wars

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ROME, MARCH 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Regular armies and paramilitary groups are using 300,000 children in 36 wars, the Holy See's missionary agency Fides reports.

Used in "forgotten conflicts," to quote John Paul II's words today, the children suffer "a double scandalous aggression: They are both victims and at the same time protagonists of war, engulfing them in the hatred of adults."

"Deprived of everything, they see their future menaced by a nightmare that is difficult to dispel," the Pope said, appealing to Christians to help these little ones.

The data published by Fides cover children ages 7 to 17. The youngsters are obliged to kill in dozens of nations, particularly in Colombia, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Somalia, Burundi and Congo. The latter reportedly has some 150,000 child-soldiers.

Some of these children "are used as the most brutal and inhuman means to open a safe way in mined areas," Fides reported. "Walking in front of the troops, with their death the children eliminate the danger for those coming behind them."

According to a U.N. report, over the past decade, 2 million children have died in wars and 4 million have been severely disabled.