For a world where children are children

February 12, 2015 marks the thirteenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

Mailing Red HandsTo mark this day, we sent Red Hands to 22 of the 35 UN Member states that have yet to ratify the Optional Protocol. 

UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 children – boys and girls under the age of 18 – are involved in armed conflicts around the world. These children are often referred to as child soldiers. UNICEF defines a ‘child soldier’ as any child who is part of any armed force or armed group in any capacity, including as cooks, porters, or girls and boys recruited or abducted for sexual exploitation. The definition does not only refer to a child who is carrying, or has carried, weapons.

The experiences of children and youth in war are a clear example of how violence denies children their right to an abundant life and spiritual well-being. Where Jesus welcomes and blesses the children, children in situations of armed conflict are too often exploited and violated.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict seeks to address this situation. The Protocol has been ratified by most member states of the United Nations, including the United States. However, some  UN member states have yet to ratify this important treaty.

Does rat­i­fy­ing a treaty mean that a State will auto­mat­i­cally enforce its pro­vi­sions? Of course not. But it estab­lishes an inter­na­tional stan­dard. It makes pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion of those who vio­late the pro­vi­sions of the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child or the Optional Pro­to­col in the Inter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.

Vibrant painted and drawn “Red Hands” gathered from Presbyterian churches all over the country affirm that children have the right to be children, not soldiers. These hands support the international Red Hand Campaign that calls for universal ratification and enforcement of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on The Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Since Pres­by­te­ri­ans became involved in the Red Hands Cam­paign in 2009, 25 States have rat­i­fied the Optional Pro­to­col; Palestine has acceded to the Optional Protocol. 

By making and sharing Red Hands, we join Jesus with the message that children are to be welcomed and blessed as children, not used and exploited as soldiers.

Find worship resources, ideas for participating in the Red Hand Campaign, and suggestions for further study for this occasion. They may be used at any time.

Thanks to Ricky Velez-Negron, Richard Aylor, and Alison Kling for preparing the Red Hands for mailing.

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