Church in Sri Lanka Decries Use of Child Soldiers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, MAY 15, 2008 ( The Church in Sri Lanka is reiterating its plea to leave children out of the forces fighting a civil war in the north of the island.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Jaffna released a report today saying that both the Tamil Tigers and the Colombo security forces are guilty of recruiting child fighters.

“Most joined the militancy without the knowledge of the parents, and making personal decisions, after experiencing harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture and the denial of their educational and other rights,” the commission said.

The report expresses concern over the future of a “mentally afflicted” society, as new generations grow up with constant traumatic experiences.

According to the commission, priests are often told by boys and girls that they are too afraid to participate in the funeral services of their peers, lest they be considered an associate of the guerillas just for having grieved their deaths.

According to UNICEF’s 2007 statistics, the average age of child soldiers is 16, but there are numerous cases of 12- or 13-year-old children being forced to fight. About four in 10 of child fighters are girls.