Sunday, March 11, 2012

And then what?

War Child | Source
When I worked at the Canadian International Development Agency (counterpart of USAID), I hired a freelance writer who was also working for the Aga Khan foundation. She was editing a book that featured illustrations by "war-affected children."

I had never heard the term before, but it has definitely found a home in my brain and my heart.

The recent Kony 2012 campaign has raised awareness of two aspects of children in war zones: 1) boys being coerced into being "soldiers," and 2) girls being raped or even held captive as sex slaves (I do not for one moment doubt that boys were raped as well).

These are horrors -- and they need to stop. The sooner the better. I would not say that they need to be stopped "at any cost," but I do hope that in Uganda and elsewhere the use of child soldiers and the sexual abuse of girls and women will come to an end. (Well, really, who doesn't hope for that?) I pray for that end.

The question that's been running through my mind all this week, however, is "And then what?" How do those (now) soldiers who have been made to perform gruesome crimes, who have perhaps become the rapists and kidnappers themselves -- how do they "go back home"?

The writer who worked for me showed me the book she was working on. She told me it was giving her nightmares, and I was not surprised. The book was filled with crude drawings of dismemberment, rapes, and bombings. Red was a predominant colour.

Somehow these children had to go on with their lives.

Later, when I met new arrivals to Canada from Somalia, who had once been refugees, I looked at them with different eyes. Here were children who had seen horrors, who were now in a country where they were impoverished and treated as unwanted people. So very much to deal with.

I don't have an answer to the question I ask. I just want it to be raised. So we stop Kony. Then what?


  1. These are the kids I see and test every day, and I wonder the same thing. And I really only see the "lucky" ones, the ones who somehow got the ticket out. Yes, they face hardships here too, but the children will assimilate quickly, faster than their parents. Thanks to the help from the refugee agencies the children at least have hope for a better future, or at least for their children's future. In fact 2 of my coworkers were brought here many years ago (decades, actually) by 2 of the same refugee agencies we currently work with. One was escaping the never-ending wars in Africa; she ended up here where an apartment seemed like a castle to her and a highway was beyond terrifying. But here she is, working a well-paying job, with a family of her own, and children set to go to college. I wonder about the ones who get left behind, though. I think about the National Geographic cover with the photo of the young Afghan girl with the striking green eyes, then to see how time and the stresses of war changed her so much. At least if we stop Kon, there will be less children for whom we have to ask "and then what?". My question is "and then who?". Who will come along next with more terrors and atrocities? Who else is doing it right now? I would love to think stopping Kony would end all the hardships and sufferings for children, but it won't. A friend of mine remembered visiting a Holocaust memorial where she saw written "Never Again". Unfortunately that wasn't true. Will it ever be?

  2. Sadly, you are right -- there will always be another person for whom others are objects.

  3. I am reminded of Christ's words, "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." (Mt 26) We are never going to end the agony these children endure. But if we stop caring, stop loving them, become callous and ignore them, then *we* lose. If we are to remain compassionate and sane, we must work to relieve their pain and to heal them. We must show that we love them.


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