Red Hands say no child soldiers

Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
Matthew 19:14

Peng Leong stuffing envelopes with Red HandsRed Hands, made by Presbyterians across the church, were sent to the permanent missions of 26 member states of the United Nations today. The Red Hands, in a variety of styles, all bear the same message: “Children are children, not soldiers.”

With the Red Hands went a request that the state sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This international agreement commits states to:

  • take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities;
  • ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces;
  • take all feasible mesures to prevent the recruitment and use in hostilities of persons under the age of 18 years by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of the state.

The Optional Protocol will not end the use of children as soldiers – programs to support disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration are needed.

However, the Optional Protocol plays a critical role in establishing an international consensus that  children should not be used as children. Such a consensus supports, encourages, and even challenges states to take steps to end the use of children as soldiers as Chad recently did.

Thanks to all who have participated in the Red Hand Campaign. Thanks to the volunteer interns at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations who helped with this particular mailing: Ellen Clark Clemot, Princeton Theological Seminary student and member of Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, and Peng Leong, from First Chinese Presbyterian Church of New York who is in the training process to become a ruling elder commissioned to pastoral service in the Presbytery of New York City.

Keep the Red Hands coming – some 60 states still need to ratify the Optional Protocol!

Children are children, not soldiers.

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