Holy See Decries Use of Children as Soldiers

Urges UN to Work With Church to Protect Youth

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NEW YORK, OCT. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is calling for greater protection for children, especially against those who enslave youth as soldiers.



Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, made this appeal Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly in a meeting on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

The prelate noted that "in the world today children and young adolescents continue to be the victims of grave violations in situations of conflict around the globe."

He added, "It is deplorable that the climate of impunity with respect to perpetrators seems to increase."

The archbishop made particular mention of "the fact that children and young adolescents have become more vulnerable in those situations where new tactics of war are being implemented."

"This has been called one of the worst kinds of slavery, yet it continues to this day: children -- at a tender age when they should be learning how to love and respect their neighbors -- are being used as soldiers," he lamented.

"Their estimated number runs as high as 250,000 worldwide," Archbishop Chullikatt stated.

"These children and young adolescents are forced to kill their neighbors, sometimes even their parents, siblings and friends," he observed. "This is despicable, but this is also preventable."

Deplorable

The prelate denounced the "deplorable practices" such as "putting children and young adolescents in the direct line of danger through their use for intelligence-gathering in military operations and for abominable terrorist attacks."

He decried "deliberate attacks against and destruction of educational facilities" and "the targeting of schoolchildren and adolescents, even for their religious belief."

The archbishop also spoke against "sexual violence against children and adolescents in situations of conflict."

"These and other heinous activities point to the need for all parties concerned to make concrete protection commitments and action plans to address such grave violations against the lives of children and adolescents," he said.

Archbishop Chullikatt urged, "States need to facilitate necessary dialogue between appropriate parties so that these shocking crimes will cease forever."

He asserted, "The international community owes this to all children and young people who suffer such violations of their dignity."

"The Catholic Church has been a constant partner of the United Nations in combating the use of children as combatants around the world, and through its various structures operating in many conflict zones, she is actively engaged in taking care of the victims of such violence," the prelate noted.

He recalled, "In 2009 the Holy See along with the community of Sant'Egidio and Caritas Internationalis and other Catholic humanitarian and education organizations hosted an event with the secretary general's special representative for children in armed conflict in order to highlight the work Catholic institutions are doing and exchange best practices to address the ongoing scourge of children in armed conflict."

The archbishop appealed, "All states, U.N. agencies, civil society and faith-based interreligious institutions should work together in a more effective partnership to ensure love, care and assistance to those affected by violence and abuse and work to foster a world of hope where these children can pursue their dreams and aspirations of a future free of violence and bloodshed."

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Full text: http://www.holyseemission.org/14Oct2010Children.html