Child soldier recruitment continues amid reform

By February 12, 2016
Flickr_Burma child soldier

Myanmar (MNN) — Elections are just around the corner in Myanmar (also known as Burma), and speculation says the national face of freedom — Aung San Suu Kyi — will be President.

Flickr_Burma child soldier

(Photo credit AK Rockefeller via Flickr)

Election buzz can’t diminish reality, though: child soldier recruitment by government and rebel forces continues.

“The Shan Liberation Force is picking up these kids; they’re training them to be soldiers,” reports Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders

“The parents have been hiding their kids in Buddhist monasteries, [and] they’re begging our contacts to take them to one of the children’s homes.”

Myanmar elections

It’s been a busy week for Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). It all began Monday, when the announcement concerning when presidential elections will start triggered a flurry of debate.

Will the NLD propose changing Myanmar’s constitution so Suu Kyi can become president? Or, will Myanmar’s next leader, as suggested here, come from the civilian populace?

Aung San Suu Kyi (Wikipedia)

Aung San Suu Kyi
(Wikipedia)

According to the Korea Herald, something big is underway in Myanmar’s capital, leading many to speculate a “significant development” is being prepared. Yesterday, the police appointed a special guard for Suu Kyi following a death threat made via Facebook.

“We cannot afford anything to happen to a person of her stature,” the police chief told BBC News.

Though many wish to see Suu Kyi appointed president in 2016, Myanmar’s constitution–which bars the election of anyone whose family holds foreign passports, as Suu Kyi’s sons do–makes that highly unlikely.

For Suu Kyi to be elected, the constitution would have to be changed. And as BBC News’ Jonah Fisher explains, “Changing the constitution is impossible without the support of the unelected army representatives.” When NLD gained majority control of Parliament this fall, it began a shift of control away from the military and into the hands of elected officials.

Turning the conversation back to child soldiers, Myanmar’s Army may be losing some control of national leadership, but it still has tactics in play on-the-ground. And they’re not the only ones: so-called “rebel” or ethnic forces are using child soldiers, too.

As recently as last week, ethnic children were being taken from their homes and forced into armed service. This summer, former child soldiers who ran away made their accounts public.

How to save a child soldier

Whether they follow Buddhism, Christianity, or animism, the gut reaction of parents in targeted ethnic groups is the same: protect your children at all costs.

(Image courtesy VBB)

(Image courtesy VBB)

As such, Buddhist and animist parents are even willing to send their kids to a children’s home operated by Christians. The end result isn’t always what they expect.

“It’s not only a wonderful option to keep these children safe physically, but also spiritually — to hear the Gospel and to actually grow in that through schooling,” notes Romeijn.

Once they reach adulthood, she adds, many children take what they’ve learned about Christ and His teachings back to their villages. And, it’s not just “head knowledge.”

“I’m always amazed at the number of kids, when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, [who] say they want to be a pastor or an evangelist; well over half [share this response].”

How will YOU respond?

It’s one thing to know about what’s happening in Myanmar. It’s another thing completely to act upon that knowledge.

Will you help Vision Beyond Borders provide a safe haven for kids at-risk?

(Image courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

(Image courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

“We need additional funds. That children’s home is running at capacity, so we would need to rent an additional building [to accommodate for children being sent to the home for protection],” shares Romeijn.

Click here and designate “Expand Children’s Home” in the Memo line to send financial support for this project. Most importantly, please surround the children and their families in prayer.

“These people have gone through situations that do cause fear, but fear is from the enemy,” Romeijn observes. Pray “that the love of God will cast out that fear and that they will be able to operate in the love of Christ to reach many for His name.”

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