Armies of the Young Come to UVM

If you’ve ever flipped on your television to CNN, Fox News or any major news network, you’ve come across footage from any one of the armed conflicts going on around the globe. You’ve seen the guerilla soldiers, grown men holding AK-47’s, heads covered to protect their identities. But something you’ve also undoubtedly seen are children holding those AK-47’s and joining the fight. In 1998 it was estimated that 300,000 children around the world were involved in armed conflicts, and that number has stayed steady ever since. More and more throughout the world, children are being kidnapped and forcibly enlisted into armies to commit violent acts for revolutionary groups.Recently, David Rosen, Professor of Anthropology at Farleigh Dickinson University, gave a lecture about the phenomenon of child soldiers. Rosen, author of the book Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism, spoke about historical examples as well as personal experiences of children forced into battle. From his travels to Kenya and Sierra Leone, Rosen was quite familiar with this interesting subject.He began by presenting some general concepts about child soldiers and remarked about how Pope Benedict XVI, who was legally forced into enlisting in the Hitler Youth as a child, is presently the most recognizable figure to deal with the problem. Children have joined the fight in such periods as the French Revolution and the Holocaust. Most notably for the United States was the Civil War. In particular he highlighted a drummer boy named Clarence McKenzie who was killed and is buried under a monument in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and also a Union soldier named John Lincoln Clem, a boy of only 12 years old when he enlisted, who would eventually be appointed to the position of Second Lieutenant. Presently, many African countries are plagued with the problem. Groups such as the Revolutionary United Front have been accused of brainwashing children and forcing them to fight. Also, the territorial conflict between Israel and Palestine has created many cases of children soldiers. One notable example from the lecture was 17 year old Ayat Al-Akras, a Palestinian girl who blew herself up outside an Israeli marketplace in 2002.Official groups around the world are pushing for a global definition of a child. The most popular concept is known as “Straight 18,” which is the notion that 18 years of age is the minimum for recruitment. The fact is that the definition of being a child is changing around the world. Radical and revolutionary groups are not sympathetic to the fact that forcing children into armed conflict strips them of their innocence, and thrusts them into an ugly adult world too quickly.