Saving the Child-Soldiers of Indonesia

Missionaries Helping Some as Young as 8

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AMBON, Indonesia, APR. 10, 2001 ( Child-soldiers were used this past year in the bloody confrontations between Muslims and Christians in the Molucca Islands, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) reported.

They are called «agas,» a word alluding to a small fly with a lethal sting. Catholic missionaries are now working with the children, to try to rehabilitate them.

According to one of the workers, this service of the Church is helping 65% of the Christian agas. The JRS Catholic volunteers provide activities for them, such as talks on the Bible, courses in design, and games. «The object is to keep the children busy, so that they will think less about the war,» explained Edi Mulyono, JRS director in Indonesia.

In recent weeks, the Crisis Center of the Ambon Diocese has housed 42 young Christians, the youngest being 13, who fought in the war and are now protected by St. Francis Xavier Parish.

«Some of them have killed other people and burned houses,» the Crisis Center said in a statement. «Many have lost close relatives, parents and/or siblings, and have no place to go.»

Mulyono added: «Each side in the struggle has its own agas. One hears stories of children involved in the burning of villages, who have thrown kerosene bombs. Many are younger than 15 years, and there are some who are only 8. Some are still in the war. Some have been used as spies; others have made bombs.»

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