August 30th, 2008

The Child Soldier

photo credit: Kay_Dub

In some distant countries mostly ignored by the American media machine, children are forced to enter bloody, drawn-out wars. Kidnapped by night and at times forced to murder their family members and peers, these children become desensitized casualties of war ignored by those who claim to support the overthrow of dictators and support of democracy around the world.

According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 2-300,000 children are currently fighting in military conflicts around the world. They are brought into a world where murder, rape, plunder, and torture are the status quo. The events to which these children are subjected scar them permanently and have a deep impact upon the rest of their lives—if they are lucky enough to survive the war in which they are fighting or flee to safety.

The following poem, written by a girl who was forced to become a child soldier in Northern Uganda, illustrates the soul-scarring despair to which child soldiers are subjected:

The Child Soldier
By Betty Ejang

The load on my head,
The rashes on my skin,
The soreness on my feet,
The pangs of hunger inside,
The despair of being alone.

Around me is a river of blood
A mess of flesh,
The dying groans of fellow children
That my hands have hacked,
The unshakable deep seated guilt inside me,
Life is but an everlasting nightmare.
I have no future to look forward to.
The soldiers regard me as a spy.
The rebels as a betrayer.
My hope: this line between life and death,
My ambition is but a moment’s fantasy.

I have deprived the beasts of their residence,
Saved and destroyed their food.
Yet I’m more or less one of them.
With no shoulder to cry on,
And no laughter to share.
Pain at sunrise, regrets at sunset,
Dawn or dusk, Life is not fair.

Striking words, are they not? Yet the dark, emotive pangs of guilt create a disconnect between the author and the reader. We simply cannot fathom the experiences Betty—and hundreds of thousands like her—has been through. For us, such scenes of gore and violence exist only as a fictional fantasy on the silver screen.

But we in America are not entirely disconnected from war. Living in a war culture of our own, it is common to hear people repeat certain pro-war talking points to declare their support for fighting bad guys throughout the world. Some examples:

  • We should use our military to defend people around the world from dictators.
  • We should impose blockades and tariffs on countries who have poor records of civil rights.
  • We should dismantle foreign governments that are corrupt and oppress the people.

Despite hearing such absurdities over and over again, you will rarely come across an individual who thinks these statements should be applied to every country that may meet the criteria. Instead, these platitudes are used to support the wars which our current government has chosen—for whatever (obvious) reasons—to start. The complicit media regurgitates the talking points on the evening news, which then become the very arguments used by the masses to claim moral justification for the government’s military engagement.

But if we’re in Afghanistan and Iraq—and if we’ve been in numerous other countries—under such pretenses, why do we fail to come to the aid of those suffering in Uganda, Sudan, DRC Congo, Burma, Nepal, and elsewhere? In light of the perhaps greater need for military invention in many countries around the world, those who parrot these talking points show themselves to be hypocritical at the very least, and nefariously disingenuous at the very worst.

Children should never be soldiers. They, more than any others, should be spared the consequences of military conflict and catastrophe caused by their parents’ generation. But the harsh reality is that a host of them currently wake up each morning a little less sane, a little more empty inside. They suppress any form of emotion that may seek to well to the surface, and bottle up any thoughts of resistance or freedom. Each day hardens them further, deepening the scars that will follow them throughout the rest of their mortal lives.

Suddenly those talking points become utterly meaningless. America currently fights not to free an oppressed people, but to serve an elitist agenda that couldn’t care less about Betty Ejang or any other child inducted into war. Thus, the responsibility ultimately (and properly) falls upon us as individuals to act, to effect change, and to spread the word.

With no shoulder to cry on,
And no laughter to share.
Pain at sunrise, regrets at sunset,
Dawn or dusk, Life is not fair.

What would you say to Betty? Certainly not that her plight is not as deserving of our attention and aid than individuals in other parts of the world. Yet that is exactly what America’s neglect of her situation conveys to the hundreds of thousands of child soldiers hoping deep down inside for liberation.

23 Responses to “The Child Soldier”

  1. Jeff T
    August 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm #

    “We should use our military to defend people around the world from dictators.
    We should impose blockades and tariffs on countries who have poor records of civil rights.
    We should dismantle foreign governments that are corrupt and oppress the people.”

    I have a question. Do you believe we should do these things? You call them absurdities, but you provide no reasons why we shouldn’t do them. You present plenty of evidence that we aren’t doing these things, and evidence that the wars we are in aren’t about these things, but you present no reasons as to why these three things are bad in and of themselves, were they done genuinely for those reasons.

  2. Rick
    August 30, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    What is absurd about the three statements is that there are not enough American soldiers to defend people from all dictators. Not enough ships to impose blockades. Not enough economic power to administer tariffs. With so many corrupt foreign governments oppressing their peoples we could hardly make a dent. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are straining the military to the limit now. And that is just two countries.

    Military might should be used primarily for defense. I would focus more on building a righteous, prosperous, debt-free nation at home and be generous with foreign aid both humanitarian and economic.

  3. Kelly W.
    August 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    I think we ought to use Section 98 as our guide.

    v. 16 Renounce war and proclaim peace.

    v. 34 If any nation should proclaim war against (you), lift a standard of peace unto that nation;

    v. 35 And if that nation did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring their testimonies before the Lord;

    v. 36 Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going to battle.

    Sounds pretty clear to me – just war is for defence only.

  4. Connor
    August 31, 2008 at 9:32 pm #


    Do you believe we should do these things? You call them absurdities, but you provide no reasons why we shouldn’t do them.

    Perhaps I was hoping that readers of my blog would already know which arguments I would use against these suggestions. 🙂 Let’s take them one at a time.

    We should use our military to defend people around the world from dictators.

    First, it should be self-evident that America cannot fix every foreign problem, even if it wanted to. As Rick notes above, it’s a simple economic equation. We simply don’t have the infinite resources and manpower to take up such an initative.

    Supposing we did have the resources, though, we might then ask on what moral grounds America would intervene. What scale would be used to justify the degree to which foreign leaders would be tolerated? At what point and under what circumstances do we decide to take charge?

    The decision to intervene becomes ambiguous, in that there are numerous factors in play regarding a country’s decision to wage war against another. Political pundits might rally support based on one or two talking points (e.g. So-and-so is using mustard gas against his own people, or so-and-so is incarcerating political dissidents), but intelligent people know that important decisions such as war are hardly so simple and clear-cut.

    This ambiguity naturally opens the door for political maneuvering. While publicly stating his support for country B’s innocent victims, country A’s leader might sue for war for any number of other reasons, such as commandeering precious oil pipelines, dismantling a hostile government, doing a favor for country C’s government, etc. George Bush’s push for war in Iraq months before 9/11 clearly illustrates this scenario.

    We must also not forget the golden rule. America thinks itself the moral leader of the world, yet we cannot justifiably go around the world removing beams in foreign governments when ours has a very large mote staring us in the face. George Bush recently condemned China’s poor human rights record and the imprisonment of political activists, yet himself has supported policies, laws, and programs that do the same thing domestically. America proclaims itself a hypocrite if we force others to become free while we increasingly become less so.

    We should impose blockades and tariffs on countries who have poor records of civil rights.

    This, in addition to carpet bombing, was a tactic used against the people of Iraq for over a decade. America’s intent was to weaken the government, yet it was innocent men, women, and children who bore the brunt of the suffering. To claim that such efforts are to help the victims and punish the government are ludicrous, for any attempt to restrict the flow of goods and services to the people only feeds the flames of a tyrant’s strangehold on his country.

    If we want to help people throw off the shackles of oppressive government, then we should look for methods to supply and empower them. Deterring them from accessing necessary resources only keeps them in poverty, fear, and subservience to established authority.

    We should dismantle foreign governments that are corrupt and oppress the people.

    This ties in to argument #1, but merits attention as well. Whether defending people from tyrants or removing the tyrants ourselves, the principle of foreign intervention necessitates an unbiased arbiter who is morally authorized to carry out his duties. What would happen in a world where countries felt justified in toppling foreign governments that they deemed to be corrupt and oppressive? We’d have constant war, for each country thinks this about its enemy. America comes up with its “axis of evil” list, yet each of those countries thinks the same of us and others. What would be our reaction if Japan said that America’s passing of the Patriot Act was oppressive, and thus deserved their intervention to dismantle our government and install a new one?

    Moreover, countries who “nation build” (such as the USA) then have a heavy hand in crafting the new “puppet” government. The parent nation then has a heavy influence in the uprising of the new, friendly government, and often have a long-lasting (if not permanent) presence to make sure things proceed as planned. Self-government is then thrown out the window, and each dominating military force has a say in how the new government will unfold.

    In essence, it’s not our business what foreign governments do in relation to their people. While we can express sympathy or offer (non-military) support where requested (and where authorized by our own laws), it is not our place to send American citizens abroad in order to create equity and peace. This only creates additional trouble as we find ourselves in the middle of civil wars, recipients to blowback and similar acts of vengeance, and fan the flames of hatred and extremism by choosing to interfere in the internal affairs of foreign nations.

    That being said, I think it is perfectly permissible for individuals and private organizations to become involved, raise money, offer support, and increase awareness of the issues. Imagine what would happen if the nation’s attention were shifted for three weeks to the child soldier situation in Northern Uganda. The public outcry would create a massive wave of financial support that would enable grassroots organizations and local (Ugandan) groups to rise up, take charge, and rally support for ridding their country of the opposing force.

    But the work starts here at home, as it relates to our government. We must clean up house before going around issuing congressional declarations that oppose some foreign government based on its own actions. Outer vessels will laugh at our hypocrisy until our inner vessel is cleaned out.

    Ok, I’m done rambling for the evening…

  5. Jeff T
    September 1, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks! Just what I was looking for. You answered my questions!

    I guess the absurdities are in the pragmatics of the situation.

  6. Curtis
    September 1, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    The three points in Connor’s article could easily be used to justify a military attack on the USA in order to depose our corrupt government. The people of the USA would no doubt take offense to this since we feel perfectly able to get rid of our own government should we choose to do so (as we should be busily impeaching Bush and Cheney right now). I think the Shiites would have appreciated their request to the USA be approved after the first Gulf war when they asked for help with weapons in their uprising against Saddam. Instead, we hovered in helicopters overhead and witnessed them being slaughtered while rejecting their request for weapons. Helping the Shiites at that time with weapons would certainly be a way to empower an oppressed people.

    Of course, another thing not mentioned here is that we often worked to install the corrupt governments the word hates. Saddam was a great example. The murderous Sakaashvili was educated in America and the US paid for his campaign for President. We have our hand in a lot of ugly governments around the world and simply first doing no harm would negate the question of whether or not we should intervene in a country in the first place.

    Of course, as Mormons, our overriding concern should be for the eternal welfare of all people as Ammon and his brothers were concerned. They went over to the human rights abusing Lamanites and sought not to destroy them off of the face of the earth as was the sentiments among many of the Nephites at the time, but sought instead to convert them over to the Gospel. It was this attitude also that stopped a war between the Lamanites and the Nephites in the Book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi stopped an entire war by their preaching in enemy territory. What a great story.

  7. Connor
    September 1, 2008 at 9:11 am #

    Of course, another thing not mentioned here is that we often worked to install the corrupt governments the word hates. Saddam was a great example.

    Indeed, Curtis, and thanks for bringing this up. I liken this situation to how Ron Paul describes our efforts in Iraq: (paraphrasing) we pay to bomb bridges in Iraq and then we pay to build them back up, all while our bridges at home are falling apart.

    We’ve had a hand in many of the dictatorial regimes throughout the world, and are experiencing the blowback referenced above. We are reaping as a nation what we have collectively sown through recent hegemony.

    So, to tie this into the main idea behind the post: it’s a bit disingenuous to claim that our wars are to help innocent victims (such as child soldiers), when recent foreign policy has been completely ignorant of their plight or circumstances. Perhaps it’s publicly sold this way, but the real reasons have nothing to do with it. And I think that the real victims around the world can see right through our intentions, noting our hypocrisy quite easily. But Americans are fast asleep, willing to believe whatever their government and mainstream media tell them. How sad.

  8. Kelly W.
    September 1, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    Yesterday as I was studying for the Sunday School lesson, taken from Helaman chapters 1 through 5, I was puzzled by the fact that Paanchi, the son of Pahoran the chief judge, sought to take the judgement seat. But the voice of the people chose the other son instead. Paanchi was rebellious and sought to destroy the liberty of the people. He was executed according to their laws. Yet, the Lamanites came to battle in that same year, and Lamanite prisoners of war were, after the war was over, released peacefully to return to their Lamanite lands. (Helaman 1:33)

    This struck me as contradictory. Execute someone who seeks the judgment seat for the purpose of over-riding the present laws, but release Lamanites that actively came to war against you to kill you.

    As I pondered this in my mind, the Spirit told me exactly why. To overthrow the laws is far worse than killing an enemy in war. In order to keep peace and prosperity among the Nephites, it was manditory to keep freedom and liberty (and execute treasonous traitors) and make peace with your enemies by being kind to your enemies’ prisoners of war.

    What a great example to us today. We ought to be seeking out and destroying those people who seek to change the laws and take away our rights and freedoms, and treat fairly our so-called enemies. (Like not torture them.)

  9. Connor
    September 1, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    I received an email from a reader who asked a couple questions, with my answers below:

    I know that many “liberal” interventionist (who are supposedly against the Iraq war) would state that this would be the reason why we need the UN and US intervention in other countries such as countries in Africa. How would you respond to them?

    If it is inappropriate for a single country to intervene in the domestic affairs of another (which I believe it is), then I reject the notion that it is somehow more acceptable for a conglomeration of nations to do the same. To assert that the democratic decisions of a union of sovereign nations has any additional moral value that those of one of its member nations alone is, I believe, without merit.

    The same issues which undermine the nobility of decisions of war by a single leader also affect similar leaders in organizations such as the United Nations. Politics enters the fray at nearly every opportunity, and decisions regarding if, when, and how to act and speak out are weighed against any number of factors that the individual or organization may deem important (timeliness, political correctness, amount of potential support by member nations, etc.).

    Furthermore, central management has shown itself to be ineffective in addressing a host of issues, such as that of child soldiers. When power gravitates towards the top (as it has with the United Nations), it becomes increasingly difficult to have knowledge regarding various issues “on the ground”, connections and trust to establish networks and groups that can rapidly and effectively solve the problem, and any desire to address seemingly “smaller” issues (when compared to other issues that might be prioritized higher by the central organization). By delegating the worry and authority over such matters to a small group of people you drastically limit your ability to effectively address the numerous concerns that are raised the world over.

    It should also be noted that the United Nations does not have any forces or revenue of its own. Only by sapping the resources of its member nations (especially the United States) can the UN do anything it desires. Thus, whether it’s the United States fighting on its own or the UN fighting w/ a member country’s forces, the issue is the same: are foreign nations justified in intervening in domestic affairs of other sovereign states?

    And also, if you’re against military intervention, what can WE do to solve the “Child Soldier” problem?

    I think there needs to be a two-pronged approach: relief/recovery and prevention.

    For relief/recovery, we as individuals can support organizations that are established on the ground in or near these countries that can offer basic resources (food, water, shelter, clothing, medical attention), counseling, education, etc., to child soldiers who have escaped. We can assist financially or donate our talents and resources to this cause. For example, a teacher can take a sabbatical to go provide free education for children in need. A doctor can set up a clinic to administer to raped girls. A wealthy businessman can build houses, gardens, and other things to help the children establish a new life. Those who have successfully fled this type of oppression are in dire need of a number of things.

    Prevention entails, of course, figuring out how we as individuals can stop this from happening in the future. How do we keep children safe from being abducted and forced into these armies? One way is to support organizations that have identified areas targeted by kidnappers. These organizations can help alert the children to the issue, help them plan a way to stay out of danger, and give them resources to stay safe. The Night Commuters in Uganda have earned their name by walking from their outlying villages in the evening to stay in shelters in the main city where they are protected throughout the night, allowing them to wake up safely in the morning and walk home in the morning to attend to their schoolwork, labor, and other duties. Supporting organizations that provide access to such facilities would be a good first step.

    Another thing that would help is to raise awareness of the situation and help point the world’s attention to the issue. Evil men operate in the dark, and shining a light on their activities would work wonders to increase public support for any organization that aims to eradicate such an atrocity. These kidnapping armies would not long survive an effective media campaign against them. Turning the tidal wave of public sentiment against a group of individuals a world away would, I think, prove to be more effective than adding an earmark/rider onto a congressional omnibus bill that would authorize some random bureaucracy to send relief supplies and money to some group that would probably never end up getting it anyways.

    The situation becomes sticky when we try to plan how best to rescue the children currently in the military. This is where people naturally appeal to government to swoop in, blow up some stuff, and topple the enemy. I think that if organizations on the ground established a safe haven for children who escaped, word would spread and the kids would increasingly look for opportunities to flee, knowing that they would find safety and resources waiting for them. As victims, I think they’re led to believe (or convince themselves) that they would be hunted, persecuted, or that their family members or friends might likewise suffer, if they were to escape. As more and more children are rescued by such organizations, they would come to realize that their kidnappers don’t have as much power over them as they think they do.

    These are just a few thoughts and methods; smarter people can surely come up with more and better ones. But I believe—and I think that history proves—that effective relief work is primarily done by the private sector, and most effectively done when supported by strong public sentiment and support. Just as the horse comes before the carriage, so too we need people to be aware of the issue before we can adequately and properly act.

  10. Adrien
    September 2, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    To Ron Paul’s point, we ought to pack everything up and bring it home. It will help us not go broke while stopping the negative side effects of capitalism from being imposed on those who have not had the privilege of benefiting from it. All of these wars are over resources. Most believe that religious fundamentalism is the cause of much of this grief but if you think about it, the core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the same – they all worship the same God. The dispute is about the way in which they discuss this God and I think they keep it alive because nobody wants cede the power(over resources) that comes with having the following that these religions have. Imagine the Pope realizing that the Latter Day Saints have the same values as the Catholics and thowing the catholic tithe into the pot of the Mormons. He wouldn’t do that any sooner than he would give up all the real estate the Church controls. Having a command over the faithful has given churches of all faiths tremendous power.

    Some even argue that the cold war was one of these wars where it wasn’t a war between capitalism and communism, it was a war between the east and west competing for resources.

    As we open the world to commerce and globalization takes hold, we don’t stop to think that our thirst for oil, need for lumber or love of diamonds causes grief to so many other people. Somebody already owns those resources and for us to use them, somebody has to go over there and get them.

    P.S. I didn’t mean to go off on the religious stuff – it is just an example how people can take a rational idea(such as people fight over resources) and turn it into something irrational (people fighting over religion). The point is there is something more basic underlying all of this horror.

  11. Amore Vero
    September 2, 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    So if your neighbor was beating up his wife & children, I don’t believe God would want you to look the other way & just pray for them. He would expect you to go over & try to save them from the guy. Same with neighboring countries. We are justified to fight wars of defense, I don’t believe the means just our own defense, but the defense of others too. The Prophet has said that the #1 responsibility of the Church is to protect it’s members from abuse. The #1 responsibility of all men is to protect women & children, everywhere they possibly can. If we 1st see to the protection of those in our own house/country than we will be stronger, wiser & lead by God to help defend others outside our home & country as best we can, even if we can’t save everyone in the world, we must still do what we can with the resources & might that we have.

  12. Connor
    September 2, 2008 at 8:57 pm #

    So if your neighbor was beating up his wife & children, I don’t believe God would want you to look the other way & just pray for them. He would expect you to go over & try to save them from the guy.

    I would prefer to see the woman and children empowered to stand up against the aggressor (in your example, the husband) and leave him. But if I was walking by and saw physical abuse happening in that split second, then of course I would intervene, and feel completely justified in doing so. This doesn’t successfully translate into an interventionist attitude of war, as I’ll show in response to your next statement.

    Same with neighboring countries. We are justified to fight wars of defense, I don’t believe the means just our own defense, but the defense of others too.

    Please show me evidence of any offensive war conducted by the United States (or any other country, for that matter) for the purpose of defending the innocent.

    You will find none. Why? Because the innocent bear the heaviest burden in war. Thus, your example of a neighbor beating his wife and children fails. In the case of war, we are not intervening to deter the husband and protect the wife and children—we are throwing a grenade into the house that blows them all up.

    The #1 responsibility of the Church is to protect it’s members from abuse.

    You must belong to a different church, because the one I attend has never (to my knowledge) issued such a mission statement.

    Back to your point about feeling justified in defending everybody throughout the world. Two items merit discussion:

    First, and as I discuss in the post, we are clearly not doing this. I’m not entirely opposed to addressing specific and limited threats, such as launching a campaign to bring to justice the leaders of organizations that are clearly and commonly understood to be mass murderers. Rather than carpet bombing everybody in our path and sending our soldiers to occupy the country, we can use letters of marque and reprisal, offer a bounty, or find other methods to specifically address the issue. We need not execute the individual, but merely deter him from further aggression and let the local people detain and try him in court (or whatever method their local laws have established from rendering justice).

    Second, I hope it is evident that we, as a nation, would bankrupt ourselves by trying to go around the world hunting boogey men. I cannot fathom that the God who inspired the Constitution and granted men individual liberty would see us squander it all in pursuit of threats throughout the world. America as we know (or knew) it would not last long amid such a massive campaign of conquest and war.

  13. Adrien
    September 3, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    One man’s good is another man’s evil. Who are we to decide who gets to win in the Georgia conflict? Georgia attacked its breakaway province and Russia intervened. Why didn’t we? In fact, we are more quick to look at Russia as the aggressor! Given this ambiguity, nobody should stand up for anyone but themselves.

  14. Yin
    September 3, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    And isn’t it terrible that whichever country we have trade agreements with, or whichever country we are proclaimed “allies” with is the country we’re going to side with during a conflict, regardless of if they’re in the right or the wrong? Politics… 😛

  15. Clumpy
    September 3, 2008 at 10:54 am #

    Two facts seem to justify Connor’s argument (his main point, not necessarily all of the little proofs), in addition to everything else said above:

    1) Geographical boundaries are arbitrary.
    2) People govern those they are closer to and know better.

    I recently wrote an article on patriotism which more fully sums up my opinions on the subject, but in a nutshell the consequences of war are so great, even in victory, that a country must intervene only when no other options are possible. The portion of America that sees itself as a neoconservative military state justifies warfare against selective targets to pump up its own ego, pointing out that we should share our wonderful principles of democracy with others (presumably including our wonderful philosophy of military expansionism) by invading and occupying them. Bravo.

  16. Amore Vero
    September 3, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    It was Pres. Hinckley who said “The 1st responsibility of the Church is to help & protect those who have been abused or who may be vulnerable to future abuse.” I would give the reference for I have it, but my computer is having major problems right now, but when I can I will.

    Also, you have never seen wars fought to protect other countries in this manner because there has probably never been a righteous enough country to do this with the right reasons & in the right way, which would not be blowing everyone up but only those responsible for evil. Such a country would have first protected their own women & children & population from abuse, before thinking about protecting others outside their borders. All things must be done in order. And if a country was truly righteous the Lord would bless them to prosper exceedingly & be rich & strong & well defended so that they could help as much as possible others who needed protection too.

    I know we have never seen this senario play out correctly, but I believe this is the ideal we should understand & aim for. Pres. Benson said that the principles we should live by are the same whether in our own homes & neighborhoods or within governments.

    Pres. Monson has told us our responsibility when we know of abuse going on around us, when he said:
    “Let the offender be brought to justice, to accountability for his actions & receive treatment to curtail such wicked & devilish conduct. When you or I know of such conduct & fail to take action to eradicate it, we become part of the problem, we share part of the guilt & part of the punishment.”

    I believe this eternal principle holds true whether we know of abuse happening in our own homes, next door or across the sea, according to our ability to safely intervene without neglecting or putting in danger our own family .

    You are right that women have alot of responsibility to do what they can to protect themselves & their children in abusive situations & try to help him stop abusing her, but most spouse abuse is not physical, it is emotional, financial or sexual (which all are usually as or more serious & destructive than physical abuse) & thus we don’t have much protection under the law yet for these other kinds of abuse, some yes, many no, nor are they taken seriously by most people. So the woman is often on her own to protect herself & children & is often unable to stop the abuse or get to permanent safety for her & the children away from him without him getting some custody. (I know many men are abused too, but for this discussion I am mainly speaking of protecting women & children)

    We must remember also that divorce & all that follows it, is also usually severe spouse & child abuse & often much more destructive on spouses & children than even staying. So abuse of a wife is often a hostage situation where she needs outside, especially male, help & protection.

    It can be the same with other countries, often the people are held hostage by evil & abusive leaders & laws & can’t get to safety without help. We all know many countries like this. And according to Pres. Monson, we would be responsible to help if we can after our own is looked after 1st.

  17. Connor
    September 3, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    It was Pres. Hinckley who said..

    Actually, that was said in reference to Bishops and Branch Presidents. See this page, and click on “Additonal Information”.

    All things must be done in order. And if a country was truly righteous the Lord would bless them to prosper exceedingly & be rich & strong & well defended so that they could help as much as possible others who needed protection too.

    Indeed. In the Book of Mormon we read of the Nephites taking care of and defending the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, but these came into the the Nephite’s country to do so. I think that’s a wise counsel – we will take in all those who require asylum and protection (inasmuch as we are able), but to invade another country to defend the people is far more dangerous and prone to abuse.

  18. Clumpy
    September 3, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    That narrows it down to the continental United States and maybe Cuba. Everywhere else is simply too far away for a systematically-oppressed, impoverished person to get. Anyway, we require cooperation with the country of origin for citizen status so the “asylum” argument doesn’t really work unless we allow illegal immigration. That’s as the system is now. Of course, things should be quicker and easier for people who want to immigrate, but we’re still far too afraid of brown people and different accents to let other people mimic what the people who founded the U.S. did in the mid-1700s.

    I think it’s better not to justify this kind of pseudoisolationism on moral terms, except to recognize that we’ll invariably do far more damage than good if we invade a country, and won’t really improve things at all. Maybe we’ll someday have a government that can learn to invade a country and let the people voice its progression, without sending in private firms and bazillions to occupy and/or profit from the place indefinitely while teaching its people that big, strong people will always run things and their role in their country is passive. I doubt that will ever happen so for now it’s generally best for the nations of the world to respect sovereignty.

  19. Daniela
    September 5, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    It is better to light one small candle than to curse all the darkness . . . I’m not sure who said that

    It is not the proper role of government to legislate compassion.

    Gandhi said “be the change you wish to see” not “complain that your government or church isn’t the change yo wish to see”

    So many times as I present some of the work our organization does (setting families in Madagascar up with means to support themselves, chickens, rick shaws, rabbits, embroidery material and so on) enabling families to feed themselves and educate their children, I am stunned at the response I am met with.

    Isn’t our country already providing enough aid to developing countries? In this particular case we’re working directly with branch and through a Branch President. We’re told “let the humanitarian department take care of, we donate to that” and patting themselves on the back they walk away.

    We’ve been taught that our government is there to solve our problems, the problems of our country and the problems of the world. In the church, we look to our leaders to do it for us. I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, and many reading this have been “anxiously engaged of their own free will” – I’m talking about the general attitude in the population.

    We’ve taken morality out of our schools, replaced heroes like Albert Schweitzer with self indulgent hollywood stars and wonder why our population isn’t pricked into action when we hear about the plight of child soldiers.

    The truth is great changes are brought about by small and simple means. Corruption and abuse in governments is most effectively fought by educating the rising generation. (see Connor’s book review on Three Cups of Tea)- Not just in what to think, but how to think, by bringing people face to face to great examples of compassion moved into action.

    I strongly believe that the largest contributor to most of the problems facing our youth and unfulfilled adults today is the desire to matter.

    Satan is great imitator. The pure joy and adrenalin that comes from direct involvement in humanitarian and philanthropic work, not giving money to someone else to do it, but actually being involved yourself. Looking into the eyes of a father who can now feed his family, that’s addictive. More addictive than the high of drugs, the feeling that one is accepted by ones peers and so on.

    Much of the abuse we see in families comes from the need to take out life’s frustrations on whom ever is present. Much of this frustration, this sense of impotence comes from the lack of impacting the world around us. The helpless feeling that life isn’t fair and our church or government isn’t doing enough for us, our country or the world.

    The difference between doing something to help even one child soldier, or one child that is vulnerable to falling into this horrible situation and having our government tax us so they can help with it is like the difference between making love and being raped.

    Movies like “The Power of One” books like “Three Cups of Tea” these are great examples of what needs to be done to solve the world problems.

  20. California Crusader
    December 20, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    No excuse should ever be made for enlisting children to do the work of adults. As an elementary school teacher, I am pained each time I hear of abuse towards these little ones. It’s tragic that we as a country worry so much about adult conflicts that we sometimes forget the needs of children.

  21. JOY
    April 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    this is SO sad no one should ever do a thing like that!!!!!!!!!

  22. Student
    May 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Dear Connor look into the invisible children organization.

  23. Ronni Earle
    June 20, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    In all of the above comments, I am saddened by the lack of most for the actual atrocity suffered by Betty Ejang herself. As a missionary God sometimes calls us, one of us or some to go to the aid of one. Betty Ejang is one amazing young lady, mother and friend whom God has placed into my hands whilst serving the returnee child soldiers for many years now. (2012 to current day) The 25 year war may well be over, however the war remains in the hearts, minds and souls of the lost generations of the Joseph Kony genocide. It remains in ways the West cannot understand unless experienced first hand. This story is real, Betty Ejang is real and the reality of what she survived is factual. Mercy Seat Mission dedicates their work to their education, rehabilitation and sustainable growth within the District of Alebtong. More recent activities include Days for Girls sanitary pad kit making coupled with health and body awareness training. We can all listen to the inner voice that asks us to reach as many vulnerable children or even just the ONE. Each one is valuable to God, what about you? Can you be the DIFFERENCE in the “one”.?

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