Pope Urges End to Scandal of Child-Soldiers

Vatican Organizing U.N. Symposium on Problem This Week

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II urged the international community to put an end to the scandal of child-soldiers, who are now found in some 50 countries.

Shortly before midday, at the end of the Mass for the solemnity of Pentecost, and in the presence of Blessed John XXIII´s mortal remains, John Paul II remembered all those youths «who are victims of the ongoing absurd violence in several countries, as testified by the news reaching us in the past days from the Holy Land.»

«We remember especially the children involved in armed conflicts,» he said. «In about 50 countries, many minors live in the midst of conflicts or post-conflict situations. They are victims of forced recruitment and of abuses of all kinds; they cannot go to school, they are separated from their parents, and subjected to physical and psychological violence.»

«I appeal to the international community to increase its efforts to protect and rehabilitate all those who live in such tragic conditions,» the Holy Father concluded. «May the children, who are humanity´s future and hope, grow up at last far away from the flagellation of war and every form of violence.»

The Vatican´s permanent mission to the United Nations, and the Office of the U.N. Undersecretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts, have organized a symposium on «Children in Armed Conflicts: The Responsibility of All,» which will be held this Tuesday.

The symposium will hear the testimony of children who were recruited by armies or guerrillas. According to the Vatican mission at the United Nations, in the 1990s more than 20 million children were killed, wounded or forced to flee because of war.

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