ROME, JULY 23, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Last Saturday three children arrived in Rome from Uganda’s northern district of Gulu, seriously wounded during the conflict that convulses the country.
The children will undergo treatment in Italy, thanks to the campaign “Imagine a World Without Child-Soldiers,” launched by the lay-run ecclesial Community of Sant’Egidio and the municipality of Rome.
The three victims have lost their families in the war and are being looked after by missionary religious.
Two of the children will be given treatment in the Pisa Hospital. The third child will undergo surgery at the Umberto I Policlinic in Rome.
During the period of their rehabilitation, the three boys will be guests at Abraham’s Tent, a home for refugees which was recently inaugurated by Sant’Egidio.
In Uganda, where 25,000 children have been forcibly recruited into the guerrilla group, or reduced to slavery, in the conflict the country has endured since 1986. The conflict which pits Joseph Kony, a Sudanese-backed self-styled visionary, and his rebel Lord’s Resistance Army against the government. The death toll from the war is estimated at 120,000.
The initiative “Imagine a World Without Child-Soldiers” is the brainchild of the young people of the group Città Scuola Parole, which they started last year. On Feb. 4, 2003, they handed Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, an appeal with 11,000 signatures collected during an awareness campaign organized in a number of Italian cities.
The joint appeal of the Sant’Egidio Community and Città Scuola Parole called attention to the plight of the world’s 300,000 child-soldiers. The appeal urged local institutions to be committed to the reduction of the sale of light weapons to countries in conflict and proposed the adoption of some child-soldiers by Italian municipalities.
On that occasion, Mayor Veltroni committed himself to bring to Rome three children in need of medical attention, which they were unable to get in their countries.