ROME, JAN. 19, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
More than 5,000 children, some as young as 5, have been recruited as soldiers by the government and rebels in Sierra Leone, a bishop said.
“An additional 5,000 children and young boys have been ´recruited´ by the rebels to transport merchandise and cook the food,” Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi of Makeni, during a press conference in Rome today. “The girls are subjected to social slavery.”
The child-soldiers “have fought in the civil war under the influence of alcohol and drugs, sometimes against their own families and contemporaries,” the bishop explained.
“Since July 7, 1999, the date on which an armistice was signed, work has begun to reinsert and re-educate these children and young boys, who have suffered atrocious physical and psychological violence, and return them to a normal life,” the bishop added.
Thanks to Interim Care Centers, the Diocese of Makeni was able to give housing, food, clothing and education to 1,000 children last year. Moreover, it liberated 700 child-soldiers in the western African nation. Italian Catholic Action, which supports the Church in Sierra Leone, gave John Paul II $700,000 for this purpose before Christmas.