INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE: Salesians Provide Education as a Means of Peace for Youth
(MissionNewswire) During the International Day of Peace, celebrated globally on Sept. 21, 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the world’s combatants to lay down their arms and embrace peace. The theme of this past year’s observance was “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future.” Ban Ki-moon stated that one of the ways to attain sustainable peace is for children to be in schools and not recruited into armies.
According to UNICEF, it is estimated that as many as 250,000 child soldiers – some as young as eight years old – are involved in more than 20 conflicts around the world. It notes that children are too frequently used as combatants, messengers, spies and cooks, and girls in particular are forced to perform sexual services. Some youth are forcibly recruited or abducted while others are driven to join by poverty, abuse and discrimination.
Millions of children, according to UNICEF, will be injured and face life long disabilities caused by armed conflicts and political violence. More will be added to their number because of the risks of landmines in areas where armed conflict has ceased. Children in war torn areas are exposed to and involved in acts of extreme violence.
The Salesians provide services to youth in war torn localities, particularly to child soldiers, bringing them hope and healing through rehabilitation programs, education and job training.
“Childhood should be a time of innocence and education,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions – the U.S. arm of Salesians of Don Bosco. “But that’s not the reality for many youth around the globe living with war and recruited as child soldiers. We provide a foundation of education for them to have better lives and a productive future.”
The Salesians have a long history of making an impact in the lives of children living in war torn areas. The emotional support, education and job placement services provided play a large role in helping youth come to terms with their circumstances while preparing them for a brighter future.
Liberia: Don Bosco Rehabilitation & Skills Training Program provides youth with rehabilitative skills training and counseling. Through classes, youth can make up for the years lost as a result of the war by gaining marketable skills enabling them to contribute to rebuilding the country. Teenagers to young adults in their mid-twenties train in carpentry, masonry, agriculture, plumbing, auto mechanics, metal works, and electricity. The program was founded in 1991 through a joint initiative with UNICEF.
Sierra Leone: More than 60,000 children were orphaned or left homeless during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Don Bosco Fambul was one of the first organizations during the war to offer shelter and food to street children and continues its work today to help reverse the effects of war. Boys ages 8-15 years are invited to become part of the program, which includes food, shelter, education and counseling – all with the goal of being reunited with their families.
Uganda: Don Bosco Children & Life Mission offers hope to at risk boys, ages 8-17, through a variety of programs. Boys attend primary schools and technical education courses to learn job skills, engage in different sports activities to keep them fit and well balanced and take part in Youth Alive Club to learn about HIV/AIDS awareness and sexuality. As they grow and develop, boys move through different stages until they reach the final of goal of an independent, productive life.
Sri Lanka: Mary Help of Christians in Sri Lanka is home to 173 girls who were soldiers during the country’s civil war. They are the innocent victims of a 25-year civil war that ended in 2009 and generated more than 200,000 young refugees. Today, these girls are safe and headed on the long path to recovery. Few people realize that 40 percent of the children kidnapped by guerrilla fighters and forced to fight in the war were girls. The youngest were enslaved as maids to cook and clean for the soldiers. As they got older, the girls were forced to act as spies and informers. By the time they reached puberty, many of the girls were trapped into abusive and humiliating marriages with guerrilla leaders.
Photo: Students of Don Bosco Fambul in Sierra Leone.
Salesian Missions – Our Work
UNICEF – Child Soldiers