Another perspective on peace: a child soldier

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I read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah last winter.  It is a stunning memoir by a former child soldier of Sierre Leone.  He describes in detail how he was conscripted and fed drugs and learned to kill at the age of 13.  At age 15, he was rescued by UNICEF and rehabilitated – initially against his will.  In this interview, he talks about his experience and concludes “You forgive yourself and you forgive others who dragged you into it.  That’s the only way to go forward.  . . . In that war, everyone was seeking revenge. It exacerbated that violence. . . Until someone is ready to stop and forgive, we can’t go forward.” 

His recovery, he says, required people to be there for him, to be patient, to persevere, to selflessly be there for him.  When I read about the rehab center for child soldiers run by UNICEF in Sierre Leone, I thought these staff members must be deeply religious.  The child soldiers had undergone brainwashing and drug addiction.  They were children and they had been abused and trained to kill and had killed.  I wonder if I would ever have the strength that the staff in the rehab center had.  To love a child so deeply, to love another human so selflessly and to have so much patience and belief that healing is possible – that requires a strength beyond ourselves.   

Ishmael now travels the world as a UNICEF ambassador raising awareness for the plight of child soldiers. 

Reva Rasmussen

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