Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ozamiz archbishop calls for a stop to child soldier recruitment in Mindanao Catholic bishop has called for a stop to child soldier recruitment, urging the government to improve living conditions and education for children in Mindanao.
“Our government must double their efforts to win the sympathy of our young (people) [on] the side of goodness,” said Mgr Martin Jumoad, the newly-installed archbishop of Ozamis, northern Mindanao.

The latter is an island in southern Philippines that includes Muslim majority regions with ongoing Muslim and communist rebel group activity.

According to the prelate, recruiting child soldiers is not new in Mindanao; groups like the Maute group (also known as the name Islamic State in Lanao) have done so in the past.

Poverty and the lack of parental guidance often push children to join the rebels as a way to earn money.

“Ustadz and catechists must do our share in reaching out to the periphery so that the values of the Almighty be heard and lived by them,” Mgr Jumoad said.

He reiterated that recruiting child soldiers is unacceptable because it violates human rights. “It is unbelievable that children are used as soldiers,” he lamented.

“Mindanao will never become peaceful if children are exposed to violence. Children must be in school so that Mindanao will have a bright future,” he added.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is the largest armed group in Mindanao, has fought for decades for the independence of the mineral-rich region.

The conflict has cost the lives of thousands of people and prevented the development of local mineral resources, estimated to be worth around 312 billion dollars.

On 24 January 2014, the MILF and the Filipino government signed a peace deal in Kuala Lumpur.

During the years of fighting, and even now, hundreds of children have been forced to leave their homes to join the rebels. 

Not everyone receives military training; some are used (and sometimes paid) to perform different tasks.

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