Children Do What They See Done

Nature is the overbearing factor in our behavior but nurture also has a role that cannot be neglected. Early exposure to violence, combined with poverty and abuse can shape our attitudes and behavior in such a way that the damage to the psyche will contribute to the manifestation of violence in thoughts and actions throughout our lives and can result in mental illness.

Invisible Children, Compassion International SandStory

“I developed this SandStory presentation to highlight the need of poor children around the world. The tremendous song, “Invisible Children” was written and performed by Chris McCall. Find it on itunes. I hope you will go to Compassion.com and sponsor a child.” — Joe Castillo

In an informal discussion group I belong to we began a discussion on centering on children, poverty, violence and compassion prompted by a film.  We began by considering the plight of child soldiers like Komona in Kim Nguyen’s Oscar-nominated film War Witch. It’s about a 12-year-old girl captured by rebel forces in Sub-Saharan Africa and her tale of survival in war-torn Africa has captivated audiences around the world.

War Witch

In the film Komona, a 14 year old girl, tells her unborn child the story of how she became a rebel. It all began when she was 12; kidnapped by the rebel army, fed drugs that made her hallucinate, she was forced to carry a AK 47 and kill. Her only escape and friend is Magician, a 15 year old boy who wants to marry her. Despite the horrors and daily grind of war,  the two fall in love.They thought they had escaped the war, but fate decided otherwise. In order to survive, Komona will need to return to where she came from and make amends with her past. Around them, war rages on….

Then we discussed the situations involving child soldiers around the world.

“Child soldiers can be found in at least 30 conflicts today. While many are used by rebel armed groups, at least 18 governments use child soldiers.” — World Vision

Kids Like Ours : Joseph Kony’s child soldiers

This film features children who are former child soldiers, girls that were abducted, or children who have lost entire families to the Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. See how you can help them through UK-based charity, edukid, for less than the price of a coffee a day.

African forces suspend hunt for warlord Kony – African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony because the new government there is not cooperating with the mission, says Uganda’s top military official.

child soldiers in BurmaForced into fighting: The battle to rid Burma of its child soldiers - There are estimated to be up to 5,000 child soldiers today in Burma.

In 2012, the Burmese government signed up to a landmark agreement, a Joint Action Plan to stop the recruitment of underage boys to the army and to discharge anyone under 18 already in the ranks.

Where Child Soldiers Come From

Child soldiers are commonly found

  1. being raised countries wherein tribalism, nationalism or political ideology has become equivalent to religion and patriotism has become equivalent to idolatry, “God is on our side“;
  2. being raised in cultures (tribes, religions, societies) wherein the status quo is using dehumanizing racist, discriminatory labels and language to describe others who are not raised in the same culture (tribe, religion, society);
  3. being raised in cultures (tribes, religions, societies) wherein the status quo is demonizing people, who have not embraced the same or similar religious and/or political ideologies and role models ie. heroes;
  4. being raised in poverty and exposed to violence in the home and on the streets in every day life;
  5. being raised by or exposed to role models who have demonstrated a propensity for violence and abuse of others;
  6. being modeled, encouraged and/or trained to adopt lifestyles, vocations and professions that include aggression and violence;
  7. being recruited or drafted into or volunteering for rebel, gang or military service and becoming accustomed the hierarchical structure, the privileges of rank, roles, wearing uniforms, following orders while being trained to kill other human beings.

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed? –Bell Hooks

Raising Compassionate Children

Our discussion morphed and became a dialog that went much deeper. We explored the propensity for violence and compassion not only in other cultures but in our own society as well.

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. – Nelson Mandela

On one hand, few would argue that children raised in poverty and neglect in war torn locations are vulnerable to becoming both victims of violence and perpetrators of violence.

On the other, there is much advice and support for raising compassionate children in the so-called developed nations of the world and it’s needed.

For, if we look closely at the conditions child soldiers come from first, then we can examine those conditions in our own society.  We can see that so many children being raised in conditions of poverty, drug abuse, domestic and gang violence in developed nations like the USA, where the military budget is enormous and systemic racism still prevails needs to be addressed.

The high rate of children going hungry in America is notable, especially considering that the U.S. regularly ranks high in global lists measuring quality of life. In the most recent human-development index released in March by the Human Development Report Office, the USA ranked at number 3, behind only Norway and Australia

Unless we accept that challenge and act then how will we become the change we want to see in this world?