Aleteia

The hidden work of the Catholic Church with thousands of “child soldiers”

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They fled civil war in South Sudan, and now live as refugees in Uganda. There, discovering God’s love has given them hope.

Some war wounds do not spill blood, but cause greater pain. Each “child soldier” cannot but carry within himself the memories of a hell they were forced to raise and live in. Used as cannon fodder, as human shields, as intoxicated puppets, they were coerced to commit the most horrific crimes. They didn’t have a chance to refuse, because nobody let them choose.

The citizens of South Sudan have been plagued by civil war since 2013. The country has been at the top of the list of the Fragile States Index (FSI, formerly Failed States Index) since 2017: its inhabitants do not have access to basic goods (food included), violence bursts here and there, and the State cannot provide with the minimum conditions required for the country to function with relative normalcy.

Two million people decided to flee south, and now live as refugees in Uganda. Even if they have lost their relatives and have renounced their homes and land, they want to preserve and rebuild their lives. One of these refugees is Santos.

“We have never known peace”

“Many of us,” he says, “have never known peace. They call us ‘the lost generation.’” He bears witness to the many who, in this situation, “fall into despair and loss of the meaning of life.”

But Santos is also witness to a brighter side of the situation: amid so much misfortune, thousands of “child soldiers” have found a lifeline. However, even if they are no longer forced to kill, the memory of what they have been through haunts them. “This is not only about feeding them,” explains Santos. “This is about reintroducing them to a normal life.” Being able to lead a normal life, when one has known horror, is truly exceptional.

A great reason for hope in their lives

How can a child soldier regain dignity and hope? “This is only possible if one brings Jesus into their lives,” Santos claims. He sees this miracle happening daily, in those young kids who discover the mercy and love of God.

“We teach them the Catechism, and distribute the Eucharist,” he explains. And little by little, young people regain joy and think about the future. Their inner wounds do heal.

The Church is the one who makes this service possible

This work serving former “child soldiers” and the 300,000 refugees living in the settlement where Santos works, is coordinated by the Emmaus Center, set in place 50 kilometers from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, by Aid to the Church in Need (internationally known as ACN).

A Gift of Faith

This service is possible thanks to the many people who collaborate economically from all around the globe. This Christmas, they contribute by giving a Gift of Faith, which consists of trading a regular gift into a donation. It is simple, and you can do it on your own behalf or on behalf of your family and friends.

With the small contribution of many, we can help “child soldiers” get back on their feet, but we can also help all those who suffer elsewhere in the world. We may not physically be able to go there and do something, but we can surely help the Church bring Jesus to the most remote corners of our world. May they hear the best news of the year: the birth of God in our hearts.

If you are making your Gift of Faith from the U.S., use this link: https://bit.ly/2OuRs4C

If you are making your Gift of Faith from Canada, use this link: https://bit.ly/2ORMfD2

If you are making your Gift of Faith from the UK, use this link: https://bit.ly/35MR9b8

If you are making your Gift of Faith from Australia, use this link: https://bit.ly/2Y0Ugd1

If you are making your Gift of Faith from the Philippines, use this link: https://bit.ly/2OUK0id

If you are making your Gift of Faith from any other country, use this link: https://bit.ly/2qWIPXH