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Children and armed conflict

Message by WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia

13 July 2006

 

On the one year anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1612, a resolution whose time indeed has come, the World Council of Churches joins with the United Nations in reaffirming the commitment to protect the children of the world. It is alarmingly unfortunate that in more than 30 conflicts around the world, children constitute the greater number of the innocent victims of these wars. Large numbers of children are killed, maimed and raped as a direct consequence of such conflicts. Children are recruited as child soldiers and exploited. Many more are victims to the indirect but yet devastating effects of war. These children are displaced from their homes and separated from their families and are denied access to health care services and education. Our children are impeded from growing up in a peaceful family environment and an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

Today, UNICEF reports that more than 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict over the last decade. At least 6 million children have been permanently disabled or seriously injured. More than 1 million have been orphaned or separated from their families. Between 8,000 and 10,000 children are killed or maimed by landmines every year. And, an estimated 300,000 child soldiers - many of whom have been forcibly abducted - are active combatants in today's conflicts.

The World Council of Churches is deeply disheartened by these statistics and is greatly concerned about the state of the world's children. There cannot and must not be any excuses given why our children must continue to be displaced from their homes, separated from their families and conscripted. We need to intentionally strive to create a safer world for all of God's children and this must claim the urgent attention of the member states of the United Nations, the international community and civil society.

In many conflict areas, churches are the first respondents to children affected by war: Demobilized child soldiers are reintegrated into their communities through their congregations; children attend schools and are given treatment at health centers run by churches, and street children and orphans are cared for at churches and orphanages. Churches are permanent structures, which could furthermore build on their expertise to include monitoring and advocacy work. The past two WCC General Assemblies have called for concerted actions on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. During this time as we celebrate the one year anniversary of Resolution 1612, the WCC welcomes this unique partnership with the United Nations which seeks to build on the expertise of church networks in conflict areas. The WCC calls upon our member churches and the wider ecumenical family to embrace this initiative for it seeks to develop a stronger advocacy platform and an effective system of monitoring and reporting - locally as well as internationally.

Let us never forget that our children are our future and as such, we must protect the future with great care and due diligence. The World Council of Churches affirms its commitment to working with the United Nations to achieve a world free of wars and conflicts, safe for our children.

This comes with my best wishes for a fruitful seminar.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General secretary
World Council of Churches