Pope Francis Pleads For An End To The Scandal Of Child Soldiering

Boys with rifles in a disputed region of northwest Kenya December that is claimed by South Sudan and Kenya.Reuters

The Pope has made an impassioned plea for an end to children being used as soldiers to fight wars created by adults.

In his "prayer intention" for this month, Pope Francis calls for an end to children being forced to bear arms. His plea is: "That the scandal of child soldiers may be eliminated the world over."

He also annouced an intention for evangelism: "That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life."

A video produced by the Pope's worldwide prayer network to promote the December prayer intention states: "In this world, which has developed the most sophisticated technologies, weapons are sold that end up in the hands of child soldiers.

"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 in this prayer intention: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over."

The Catholic Church opposes child soldiering for obvious reasons of human justice and dignity.

The Pope's plea comes after a group of senior African church leaders travelled to Rome in October to talk to him about how to end the phenomenon, which in some countries such as South Sudan has escalated to the point where are now thought to be at least 16,000 children engaged in armed fighting.

Paulino Lukubu Loro, Archbishop of Juba in South Sudan said the only way to stop children being used as soldiers was to find a way to stop the conflict, which has been raging since at least 2013. He told CNA that many children did not even need to be recruited but opted to join up out of their own volition.

"It's because they feel the problem, they are grieved, they feel that there is an injustice in the administration of the government and here you have young boys, young children, by themselves. They are not even recruited by anybody," he said.

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