Save our children!

It was a shocking news, yet it was apparent that it didn't make it big on the media. The American people were still mourning on the loss of 32 students in the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy, and everyone could care less about other things. Even the bombing that killed almost 200 people in Baghdad only got a few spectators, I guess.

It's a video about a twelve years old boy beheading an adult, accusing the victim to be a "US spy". Those who sent it to the AP Television News in Peshwar -- and circulated it around Pakistan, undoubtedly -- called themselves part of the Taliban militia group.

I am not going to debate about the authenticity of the video. Some may claim that it must be a slick trick of the Western countries and the enemies of Islam to ignite more hatred towards the Muslim world. Their opponents will cry out that this should reinstate the danger of the Islamic radical groups. The victim's father has appeared on television, saying that his son was indeed beheaded being alleged a traitor to the Taliban group. But to this day there is no official statement of the Taliban group on the video.

I have no idea why it seems like the news never showed up Indonesia, though UNICEF has issued a statement condemning it. Maybe there is a silent consensus among the media people to keep it under radar, so as to avoid controversies and prevent possible chaos. If so, kudos to them :).

Anyway, that is not my point.

My first introduction to underage soldiers was actually through that chilling movie, "The Killing Fields". I remember my outrage watching children reporting their own parents' whereabouts to the Khmer Rouge military, and their taking parts in their parents' execution. Several years went by, and I had forgotten the movie, until I read Luigi's previous post about the same issue, which really struck me. Luigi's post had kind of reopened my eyes to the sick reality in another part of the world, and Ishmael Beah's narrative in "A Long Way Gone" made me think long of the children victimized by wars and conflicts everywhere.

Ishmael told the readers how he got into the front line of the civil war in Sierra Leone. For him, it was the question of staying alive, though he once lost his reason to live as his entire family was killed by the rebel group. The military managed to induce this thought to him, practically brainwashed him by telling him (and his peers) every second that fighting was the only way to take revenge for his family's deaths and to stop other children from being orphans like them. Of course, they were also drugged.

I have to say that Ishmael didn't dwell much on his experience in the war -- judging from the number of pages devoted to that particular part -- or how he underwent his recovery process, which is very understandable. I'm quite sure that even now, when he's already safely tucked in the US, breathing air of freedom, and enjoying celebrity life *winks* he still has his occasional nightmares.

While TV documentaries, some news, and articles on child soldiers are available, as well as reports made by the UN and NGOs, I don't think enough attention is given to this serious issue. "The children are our future" remains a meaningless slogan amidst a number of international conventions, the most important one being the Optional Protocol to UN's Convention on the Right of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. One striking fact: the report made by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
disclosed that after the US ratified the Protocol in 2002, the US Army still deployed 62 soldiers aged 17 in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004 (though this practice has stopped by the end of 2004, further details of the report are here) -- I wonder whether Americans, with their strict domestic regulations to protect children, are aware of this. Well, similar practices can still be found in any conflict area, including in, yes, Indonesia. Nevertheless, the Protocol has a loophole surprisingly so obvious: Article 3 that gives exemption for state parties from the restriction to use allegedly child soldier on the condition that (a) Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary; (b) Such recruitment is carried out with the informed consent of the person's parents or legal guardians;(c) Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such military service; and (d) Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into national military service. YIKES! This is even worse than our national laws!

OK, enough with the lengthy lecture on those legal aspects. It's more important, anyway, to focus on the children.

Children involved in conflict -- voluntarily or forced -- will likely have difficulties in adapting to a peaceful environment. They are often drawn into, and sometimes create, dangerous chaos . Their anxiety, once channeled through violence at wars, slowly consume them. If the city kids who are exposed to violence in action movies and electronic games can turn into killing machines, those who actually commit it will -- at least theoretically -- have higher possibility. Should this not be carefully handled, in the long run they might generate, as Edsye Nana labels it, the victim's victims.

It's especially difficult in post-conflict time as this requires taking care of the children AND the community. Emotional wounds still need to heal; conflicting parties need to cast aside their ego to provide conducive environment for children to, well, heal. EGO. EGO. Hm. I remember a short story in one of Romo Brouwer's article, about a mother who had forced her son to step on his father's blooded shoes. It was a mandate to take revenge of the family's enemy who had killed the father. It's not an alien concept.
In the litany of baseless blind justice, parents may have victimized their own kids without realizing it. BUT we, we, we can do something to fix it. IF we are willing and committed to.


mellyana said...

di topik yang sedikit berbeda, kak, waktu aku liat idol gives back, aku, entah kenapa bener bener gak bisa ngomong apa apa liat anak anak yang disitu.

tapi sometimes, batas antara mencoba membuat anak2 itu dilihat orang, supaya kemudian mendapat pertolongan, dengan membuat anak2 itu terexpose for another different reason, tipis banget ya...

yang punya said...

benernya idol gives back juga banyak dikritik di sini kok mel, dengan alasan yang kurang lebih sama: manipulasi penderitaan untuk kepentingan humas hehehe... tapi yang bikin aku agak terganggu adaah entah kenapa aku ngeliat beberapa misi selebriti amrik akhir2 ini dipusatkan di afsel (oprah, idol). mind you, emang di afsel masih banyak daerah yg perlu dapet pertolongan, but on the other hand afsel is one of - if not THE - richest countries in africa. knp ya gak pergi ke negara yg barangkali lebih butuh pertolongan, Liberia, misalnya, atw Sierra Leone? hihihihi... sama kali kayak banyaknya proyek NGO di aceh yg numpuk di daerah2 yg gampang diakses, yak? ;)

Andreas A.P. said...

MUNGKIN kita lupa bahwa pintar saja tidak cukup. Bahwa kepintaran mampu mencetak banyak uang, mungkin benar. Namun, sukses hidup tentu tidak dipatok hanya dari banyak uang. Tidak semua semerbak kehidupan bisa dibeli dengan uang.

Kelaparan anak Amerika sekarang, konon, lantaran mereka tak punya arah hidup. Pintar-pintar, tetapi rasa arah hilang, krisis spiritual, kerawanan jiwa, dan merasa hidup nihil. Tak sedikit orang yang kelihatan mapan sekarang membutuhkan "logotherapy", terapi buat penyakit orang yang hidupnya tanpa makna (meaningless life).

Gambaran kelabu seperti itu kelihatannya sedang memberi warna pada Generasi X, generasi dunia paling bungsu sekarang ini. Setelah baby boomers tahun 1950-an, baby busters tahun 1964-an, kini Gen-X dijuluki orang sebagai "generasi bingung" (ambivalensi). Hidup mewah, mandiri, tetapi tak merasa bahagia. Mereka mencari makna hidup ke mana-mana, termasuk mencarinya di narkoba, namun tak juga nemu. Mengapa?

Boleh jadi lantaran pendidikan dunia sudah berubah seperti "pabrik" (Ivan Illich). Anak dididik bukan untuk tujuan yang bersifat moral, tetapi lebih untuk alasan ekonomi. Orangtua, sekolah, pemerintah, masih menyimpan adagium buat apa sekolah bila tujuannya bukan buat mencari duit. Anak digiring menjadi "mesin pencetak uang" belaka. Yang dikejar anak, lalu itu membuat mereka menjadi stres sendiri (makin banyak anak sekolah bunuh diri di Jepang) bagaimana selalu "menjadi nomor satu". Sukses hidup dianggap identik dengan banyak uang semata.

Kurikulum sekolah kita pun tak lagi mencerminkan suara masyarakat. Peran sekolah cenderung hanya mengajar dan tidak lagi mendidik. Otak anak dijejali kurikulum yang belum tentu perlu. Menghargai NEM tinggi nilai hafalan nama kecamatan, nama tokoh, tahun sejarah, dan hal-hal yang tak ada keperluannya buat bekal memecahkan masalah hidup, di negara maju dianggap hanya menambah sempit disket memori
otak anak.

yang punya said...

buset, panjang bener... ini bukannya untuk postingan yg laen? thanks anyway! hehehe..