On the occasion of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on 12 February 2017, two international networks, Entreculturas and the Jesuit Refugee Service, have joined Pope Francis’ monthly intention to pray and mobilise for the end of the use of child soldiers, in collaboration with the Pope Worldwide Prayer Network.

The initiative has also recieved the support of the education and social promotion Jesuit network, Federación Internacional Fe y Alegría, present in 21 countries.

There is often a strong link between forced displacement and the forced recruitment of children. Displaced children are an easy target for recruiters since they often lack adequate protection and education and are easier to manipulate. Children – some as young as six years old – are forced to fight and kill, as well as be involved in activities like espionage, supporting armed groups as informants and messengers, engaging in illicit activities such as drug production. They are also used for sexual exploitation. Many are killed, seriously wounded or imprisoned. They are regular victims of abuse to transform them into violent persons with the result that rehabilitation into society is an enormous challenge.

Pope Francis entrusts intentions each month to his World Prayer Network that focus on social challenges and the Church’s mission. His monthly prayer intention through "The Pope's Video" is a worldwide call to turn prayer into "concrete gestures”. In the month of December, the Pope invited us to pray and mobilise for child soldiers and children forced to participate in violence. The only weapon for boys and girls should be education.

Coinciding with the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network invites us to pray and mobilise for the cause of child soldiers, as well as to support the projects of Entreculturas and the Jesuit Refugee Service to ensure that these children do not spend their childhood on a battlefield. People are also encouraged to support Pope Francis’ initiative by signing the petition printed below. The campaign has been launched in both English and Spanish and has been shared in more than 20 countries.

Entreculturas and the Jesuit Refugee Service work to support, serve and defend the rights of child refugees and forcibly displaced children. They promote educational programs that protect children from the violence and give them everything they need to learn, and allow them to become children again. In situations of displacement, education is an essential means of protection and hope for the future of these children. Entreculturas currently provides support to three JRS initiatives in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Colombia.

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