Building a human rights culture in the context of child soldiering : a challenge to the Protestant Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The present research focuses on the phenomenon of child soldiering which occurs in many countries worldwide and which is prevalent specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DR Congo alone has in the last ten years included 27 percent of African child soldiers in its armed forces. The conflicts in the DRC always centre on the country’s mineral resources and in this context children have become a weapon of war. Many scholars have studied the phenomenon of child soldiering as a human rights problem. The gap that this research aims to fill concerns a consideration of child soldiering as a human dignity abuse that compromises the future and the development of the country as a whole. The study’s target is to challenge the Church to build a human rights culture that opposes child soldiering. Two frameworks are used in this research. The first framework involves social science and provides a theoretical background whereas the second consists in the theological outlook on human dignity of Jurgen Moltmann. The literature analysis is used as a methodology to promote an understanding of what is really going on. Based on a study of the various reasons for the involvement of child soldiers in DR Congo, the research demonstrates that most children join as a result of external causes leading them to become enlisted or to volunteer. Among these causes are poverty, failure of the educational system, coercion, abduction and the impunity of recruiters. The research reviews many tools, internationally used and ratified by human rights organisations that aim to protect human dignity. Theoretically the CRC (Convention of the Rights of Children) is supported by the DRC that therefore is expected to adhere to the principles of “Provision, Protection and Participation” of children. However, in spite of a multiplicity of tools to guarantee children’s rights, child soldiering remains a challenge of human dignity in DR Congo. The present research has adopted a theological view of human dignity proposed by Jurgen Moltmann. This theology justifies three key points why a child should be seen as a full human being: Child is created in the “imago Dei”, thus inheriting respect and worth, he participates in the story of redemption and he is created with full freedom. What should be the role of the Church in when such full human beings fall victim to undignified situations? The DRC Church has been challenged by reminding it of its mission and role. As a child represents the image of God and is a member of the Church, its abuse constitutes the abuse of the Church as a whole. Thus the phenomenon of child soldiering detracts from the dignity of the Church because part of the body of the Church is affected by the presence and participation of child soldiers.