Pope Francis has never been more serious in his life
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.” Matthew 18:10 (NLTCE)
It now becomes evident God was already moving Pope Francis’ heart and conscience when, in November, 2016, he spoke up out of the blue. It was at the UN-sponsored World Day for the Rights of the Child, also known as Universal Children’s Day, Pope Francis stated solemnly, “It is everyone’s duty to protect children,” especially from abuse in all its forms, particularly the shackles of slavery and the brutality of forced military service. Throwing caution to the winds he said, “I hope the international community shall be vigilant over the living conditions of children, especially where they are exposed to recruitment by armed groups; I also hope the international community will help families ensure every child the right to schooling and wholesome upbringing.”
In his prayer video, released on December 1, the Holy Father let his heart break open. The video starts with a soldier suiting up for battle in the dark, boots, gun, and ammo included. As the camera turns into a full figure frame, it is obvious the soldier is a young boy, with a bandana covering half his face.
In slow motion, the child pulls the bandana down revealing his entire face – good gracious, he is just a child! Pope Francis breaks down and his voice is heard with intonations of great sadness. In his native Spanish, he says, “In this world, which has developed the most sophisticated technologies, weapons are sold that end up in the hands of child soldiers.”
The heavy heart lightens as in the next scene, the camera takes us to children running and playing in the sun. Pope Francis continues, in Spanish, “We must do everything possible so that the dignity of children may be respected, and end this form of slavery.”
The man of God speaks to everyone who is reading this, “Whoever you are, if you feel as I do, I ask you to join me in this prayer intention: that the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.”
For those who feel their hearts responding to the Holy Father’s appeal, here are the statistics you can pray and intercede within your prayer group about.
World Vision reports: Around the world, an estimated 2,50,000 children – some as young as 7 – are involved in armed conflicts. These children exploited in state-run armies, parailitaries, and rebel groups. Coerced, enticed, or abducted, these children serve as combatants, porters, spies, human mine detectors, and sex slaves.”
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 phenomena, 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.
by the NLTCE News Network