GUEST POST: thoughts on parading in the streets while denouncing the actions of the government

by T.J. Webb


event-featured-Tara-Laase-McKinney-1504621335If you are like me, you may be really wrestling with whether or not today should see you donning an American Flag t-shirt, throwing the kids in the sidecar, waving tiny American Flags, and driving down to participate in the local parade like you do every year (or whatever your annual 4th of July tradition is). It’s hard to know how overtly patriotic to be when the nation is in the midst of such moral crises. Are we permitted to parade in the streets while privately and publicly denouncing so many of the actions of our government and the words and standpoints of our elected officials?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t think I would judge anyone for celebrating, and I don’t think I would judge anyone for giving the 4th of July a miss this year. I keep being reminded that tomorrow is, first and foremost, a Patriotic holiday. That means it is a celebration for anyone who loves our country, who is thankful for America and what it stands for, for the ideals upon which we are founded. It is not a Jingoist holiday; that is, it is not for those who would celebrate our right, by virtue only of our nation of birth, to dominate or oppress others. It is not a Nationalist holiday; that is, it is not for those who would celebrate the supremacy of America and Americans over all other lands and people, for the creed of America is inherently inconsistent with Nationalism.

We Hold These Truths
So, tomorrow I will be celebrating this wonderful nation along with my family and friends, because we love and are very thankful for our country. We will wave flags, we will wear our shirts, we will eat Freedom Fries and Hamburgers (Ameriburgers?). We will celebrate that ‘America is the only nation founded on a creed’, and that creed revolves around the equality of all men and their right to justice. We will remember that we are a nation of immigrants.

history-550x286But if someone’s pride in America is of the sort that sees our primary duty in the world as promoting our own interests regardless of the suffering of others, or of seeing our own people- or a subset of our own people- as more inherently deserving of dignity and compassion, or if the phrase “they aren’t Americans” seems like a valid justification for acts of cruelty or inhumane usage… Might I recommend that they stay home and watch TV instead? Because the 4th of July is the celebration of the fact that “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” If that isn’t an idea that your conceptualization of American can get behind, then this probably just isn’t the holiday for you.

And yes, I realize that would mean it would be a quiet 4th of July at the White House.


Resource List: Understanding the Border Crisis and How to Help

by Michelle Palmer

UPDATE: After this was originally posted, President Trump signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy. However, thousands of children are still separated from their parents, and the crackdown on immigrants remains problematic. Help is still needed, and there are ways for us to get involved. For more, see Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Doesn’t Do from NPR.

It takes a grave issue to warrant the first ever edition of “Wednesday Justice,” and this one is. To not have heard about what’s going on at the US-Mexico border over the last several weeks, you’d have to be living pretty far off the grid. But even if you have heard about it, you may not understand quite what’s happening or why. Full disclosure: we don’t have a great grasp of it either. It’s complex and confusing and heartbreaking. Channon and I have been tied up the last couple of weeks with personal projects, which means we’ve not been able to dedicate sufficient time and energy to understanding this issue as well as either of us would like. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do! We’ve gathered links that will help us understand the issue better, as well as ways to help.

What’s going on?

Updates on Executive Order from June 20:

What can we do? 

– CALL YOUR SENATORS!!! It’s super easy. Call the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and read the script.

Script 1:


Script 2:


– Check out this regularly updated Google Doc from Feed Our Democracy: Action Plan for Helping Immigrant Families Torn Apart at Border

Join a protest on June 30. (Louisiana folks, here’s the link for the protest in New Orleans.) UPDATE: This is STILL ON, post-executive order.

Donate! These organizations are funding operations ON THE GROUND:

And lastly, I want to leave you with some of the best commentary I’ve read on the matter, from one of our very own guest post authors, Vershal Hogan:

Forget “be the change you want to see.” Be the change that you CAN be.

When something awful is happening a long way off, there’s only so much you can do — and you should do all of those things. Agitate the proper authorities. Give money to relief agencies. Keep talking about it on social media (and in real life!). Put the squeeze on wherever you can.

But then take to heart the message about rising tides lifting all boats. Find something in your local community you can do to improve things there. The fastest way to change hearts and minds is to meet needs.You may not be able to give out blankets at the border, but — after you call your Senator, of course — you can give out blankets at your local shelter. You may not be able to walk with the labor organizers marching on the Capitol, but — after you call the governor — you can give someone the $50 they need to get their car fixed so they can go to work. You may not be able to house every homeless veteran, but — after you call your representative — you can give someone a ride to the VA.

(And honestly, if you’re saying “what about ‘x'” in response to someone else’s concern, then you need to be sure you’re actually working to address ‘x.’)

Maybe none of those things are an option. Maybe you are tethered down with work and family and legal obligations. Maybe your good is even smaller. But do it. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.”

Until that season comes when you reap, do what you can when you can — be it online, in the streets or under your roof.


For more information…


Resources for Understanding DACA

by Michelle Palmer

Neither Channon nor I were quite qualified to tackle the DACA issue without lots and lots of prior research, and due to time constraints on us both, that wasn’t really an option this week. However, I wanted to provide something for folks who, like me, want to understand the issue a bit more. So I did some legwork to gather and organize what information I could. The following is the result of that endeavor, and I hope it proves useful to someone!

What is DACA?

  • Deferred Action for Child Arrivals
  • “The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.” –  from a short summary of DACA from NBC.
  • The application process is lengthy and complex.

Who are Dreamers?


What happens if DACA is rescinded?

“On DACA, the [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights] called Trump’s move to stop allowing new applicants to the program and to let permits begin expiring in six months ‘a step backward for our country.’

The statement cited both the economic arguments for DACA, including 700,000 jobs that would be lost and the billions in tax revenue, as well as the humanitarian argument for the program’s participants.

‘They now face a reality where they are at risk of being exploited in the workplace and deported and prevented from fully contributing to and supporting their families, communities, and country,’ the panel wrote.”

Who supports DACA?

…and many, many, many more.


How do we help Dreamers?

And if all that wasn’t quite enough, this is a lengthy, but very informative, piece on the issue: Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted by Adam Edelman for NBC News


Pathways to Modern Slavery


by Michelle Palmer



The reality is that most victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are not abducted or kidnapped. That can happen, and people should exercise reasonable precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but there are factors that create higher risk, or vulnerabilities, to enslavement. Many of these factors can only be fully alleviated by ending global inequality and extreme poverty, but don’t let that discourage you. While ending global inequality and extreme poverty is a noble pursuit that will take years, understanding these vulnerabilities will help us to understand more ways to fight back against traffickers in the meantime. These factors intersect and overlap and several can be present at once, but because each one can be tackled in different ways, each deserves its own look.


“A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described to me how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, Haresh told me, ‘My entire family is still in debt to the landowner.  Sarika and I work in the fields, my sons and their wives work at the brick kilns.  One day my grandchildren will work for the landowner.  There is no way to repay these debts.  We will only be free when we die.’” – Siddharth Kara, CNN Freedom Project

Poverty overlaps with almost all of the other risk factors. Debt bondage, or bonded labor, is when a person exchanges their labor for a loan but ends up trapped by the employer, coerced into working long hours to pay off unreasonable interest rates. Often, the employer will provide minimal food and shelter and add these costs to the worker’s debt, resulting in a never ending cycle. 


What happened to Haresh is not wholly uncommon in South Asia. Kara estimates “18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90% of whom are in South Asia.” The ILO gives a more conservative estimate: 11.7 million slaves in the region, most of whom are bonded laborers. This form of debt bondage is illegal, but extreme poverty leads people to fall prey to these dubious lenders in times of desperation. Many of my examples are from developing regions, but this isn’t something that only happens “over there.” There are people in extreme poverty in the West, and their desperation could lead to situations of enslavement and various forms of forced labor.

Lack of Opportunity

“Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings. His mother, Maria, is disabled. She cannot work in farming, the traditional and predominant occupation of the family’s indigenous people in a village in the Central Tongu District of Ghana. She had no way to provide for her children and could not afford school fees, so Nartey had to abandon his education at just 13. That is when Nartey was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.” – Anna Bengel, Free the Slaves

Thankfully, Nartey’s story doesn’t end with his enslavement. Because of Free the Slaves’ efforts alongside partners in Ghana, Maria learned about slavery and is working towards learning a trade so she can be financially independent despite her disability.

In 2015, I worked as a volunteer on a literature review for Free the Slaves on sex trafficking in Nepal. One of the recurring themes I came across was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in rural areas. Their desperation led them to seek work outside of their villages, and in some cases, women were trapped in sexual exploitation in Kathmandu or trafficked into India.   

rgq8JnWhen I was in grad school, I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow at the start of a paper on the concept of freedom. It was risky, I know, but I don’t regret it. In the first film, he tells Elizabeth Swann, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”  You see, if the Black Pearl is freedom, then a keel and a hull and sails are the tools needed to escape poverty and desperation. One of the primary tools people need for freedom is opportunity.

Lack of Access to Healthcare

“Impoverished and faced with impossible challenges, Setsofia’s sick mother arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta. It was a desperate bid to get money for treatment for her protracted illness.” – Anna Bengel & Theodore Atsu Ameme, Free the Slaves


As I said, many of these factors overlap. Anna and Theodore (quoted above) tell a story about Setsofia (spoiler: it has a happy ending!), and it sounds really similar to the story about Nartey. Nartey’s mother didn’t have opportunity because of her disability, and Setsofia’s mom was bedridden due to a sudden illness. The difference is that access to quality healthcare may not have helped Nartey’s mom, but it would certainly have made a difference for Setsofia and his family.

Lack of access to healthcare can also lead to debt bondage. “Lenders” prey on those who can’t afford a life-saving procedure or treatment for a loved one, and family members can become trapped by the debts obtained paying for medical expenses.

Violence/Lack of Law Enforcement

Millions of the world’s poor are trapped in slavery, because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery simply aren’t enforced by the police and courts—so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all.” – IJM

On duty

Anti-slavery laws are on the books everywhere, but those laws must be enforced. The American anti-slavery organization, IJM (International Justice Mission), focuses its efforts on this particular weakness. In fact, IJM CEO and founder, Gary Haugen, wrote an entire book on the issue; in The Locust Effect, Haugen argues that ineffective justice systems are hindering poverty alleviation worldwide. “While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, there is a hidden crisis silently undermining our best efforts to help the poor. It is a plague of everyday violence.” In regards to slavery in particular, whether law enforcement officers are not trained to spot human trafficking or they’re being bribed by the traffickers, effective law enforcement is a key component of ending the practice altogether.

War and Unrest

“Armed conflict and a weak government allow slavery to flourish in eastern Congo. Forced labor and sex slavery are widespread in mining regions—as is forced marriage.” Free the Slaves, Congo

121123110824-congo-crowds-fleeing-horizontal-large-galleryWar and unrest in a region create vulnerabilities to modern slavery in a number of ways. In Democratic Republic of Congo, which is remarkably rich in natural resources that are used in our modern technologies, men and children are forced to mine for these resources by groups of armed militants to fund their war. In other regions, children are forcibly recruited into the conflict. (See Channon’s post on Child Soldiers.) Refugees are also at a higher risk of being trafficked, simply because of the desperation of their situation. Without a home, seeking asylum, people may come to rely on traffickers to help them escape to what they hope will be a better, safer life.  


“‘I’d seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it.’ Instead, for attempting to access the basic human right to a decent job, Seema was trapped as a domestic slave for more than two years.” – Survivor Stories, Free the Slaves

This particular vulnerability is closely connected to poverty, lack of opportunity, and war and unrest. Not all immigrants are vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Channon and I both immigrated to the UK for our studies. The difference is that we chose to leave our homes to study, not to escape a desperate economic situation or violence in our home countries. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.migration1-537x350.png

I took the quote above from Seema’s and Kamala’s Survivor Story from Free the Slaves (another happy ending!). It’s a story I’ve come across all too often in my research (but not always with a happy ending):  No opportunity at home. Recruited for a job overseas. Arrive in a foreign country. Passports and visas taken by employers. Trapped and abused as a domestic slave. (Or a construction worker. Or a farmworker.)  

Runaway and Homeless Youth

“…people who may not be financially stable because of homelessness or a lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.” –  Stay Safe, Polaris Project


Many of the examples used previously have been about factors that are more common in, but not confined to, developing regions. However, this particular issue affects young people both at home and abroad, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. According to Covenant House, “40% of homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. identify as gay or transgender.” If they are rejected by their families after coming out, LGBTQ youth may end up on the streets and be targeted for sexual exploitation. To a slightly lesser extent, this is true for other homeless and runaway youth as well. Without a home or a family, there is a desperation for stability and belonging.

I’m ending this section with another quote because it’s incredibly important in combating this particular risk factor.

“Sociological research shows that what makes people most vulnerable to being victims of trafficking is the same thing that makes people most vulnerable to being perpetrators of trafficking: an extreme need for belonging. Actual, sustainable trafficking prevention at its most foundational is, therefore, loving yourself, being yourself, loving others, and encouraging others to be themselves. Creating community and being connected is the safest way forward.” – Zhaleh Boyd

Lack of Rights Awareness

“In the Congo, for example, we support the broadcasting of anti-slavery messages over a network of community radio stations. In Nepal, we explain the risks of labor trafficking and how to migrate safely. We work with communities to organize anti-slavery committees that act as a neighborhood watch against slavery and as a bridge to the police and other authorities.” – Free the Slaves FAQs

00532006701_20150525Simply put, people just don’t know their rights or the dangers of modern slavery. Many who are trapped in debt bondage don’t realize that the lenders are violating the law. Seema and Kamala, whose story I mentioned earlier, now work to educate other Nepalese women about the dangers of migrating for work and help them determine if they are being tricked by recruiters. Rights education is an essential component of prevention.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of modern slavery, but I hope it sheds some light on the ways in which traffickers prey on people in desperate situations. By tackling these areas of vulnerability, we can begin to prevent slavery before it happens.

For More Information…

Organization Profiles: Preemptive Love Coalition & International Rescue Committee

I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

by Michelle Palmer

I had several ideas floating in my head regarding what to write about this week; there seems to be so much in the news that we could (and perhaps should) address. But as I laid in bed Sunday morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a couple of posts from organizations that are committed to refugees and people in crisis zones, and it just made sense to me to h9374744871_73d9c478e7_b.jpgighlight a couple of them. I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

I’m going to highlight two rather different organizations. The first, Preemptive Love Coalition, is less than 10 years old with a budget a fraction of the second. The second, International Rescue Committee, started because of a suggestion made by Albert Einstein and has been around in various forms since 1933.

[Sidenote: I’m highlighting two organizations here because people connect to different organizations for a variety of reasons. (For example, I explained my undying love for Free the Slaves on the blog a couple months ago.) Maybe it’s a particular ethos you connect to or you love their founders’ tweets or there’s a story of their work that impacts you on a deeper level than all the others. If you don’t particularly connect with either of these, there’s a list of others at the end. As they say, get in where you fit in!]

Preemptive Love Coalition

Where: Primarily Iraq. Also Syria, Libya, and Iran.

The Method:  

  • Lifesaving Heart Surgeries for Childrenplc-logo-v2
  • Emergency Relief for Families Victimized by ISIS
  • Empowering Grants for Small Business Owners
  • Education for At-Risk Children
  • Peacemaking in Conflict Zones
  • Counsel to Policy Makers

When I first read that one of the big things Preemptive Love Coalition does is provide heart surgery, I was bit thrown. It didn’t quite fit with my assumptions, but it all makes sense when you read the story of how it all started:

PLC+anesthesiologist.jpg“Our story began in a hotel lobby inside Iraq in 2007. A fearful father, his beautiful daughter, her ailing heart, and the simple question, ‘Please, will you try to save her?’ From that day, we threw ourselves into eradicating the backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery, often in the most war-torn, unreached parts of the Iraq like Fallujah and Tikrit.

“These years of investing in Iraq’s medical infrastructure through training and lifesaving care resulted in over 1,300 heart surgeries. Because of our world renowned surgical teams, we were invited into every major region of the country. When ISIS rampaged onto the global scene, we were uniquely positioned to expand our programming so that we could continue to go to the conflict-zones others were fleeing, to love those no one else will love.”

Specific reports of what PLC does on the ground aren’t hard to find on the website. Take the Fallujah Report for example. It documents how much was raised ($672,226 between May 26 and early July), how much food was delivered (306,600 pounds), and how much water was provided (414,039 liters). In addition to the reports, there’s a blog with lots of information as well.

The impact:

Numbers help us to measure the size of the impact, and these are the big numbers for Preemptive Love Coalition:15154683630_0531fd1277_b.jpg

  • 2,200 operations for children
  • Over 1 million pounds of food delivered to ISIS victims
  • 95 businesses started by displaced men and women

But beyond the numbers it’s important that the impact not only serves the locals in the short term, but leaves lasting (and sustainable) improvement. PLC is clearly committed to locals. Firstly, in their medical work, they welcome foreign volunteers, but they also seek to train locals. Secondly, instead of requesting supplies, they request money so they can source supplies locally to support the local economy. And thirdly, it’s clear that empowerment is key to their work. Direct quote from the website: “When a family says they don’t need us anymore, we consider this a success.” Organizations like PLC should always be seeking to put themselves out of business in an area.

How you can help:

  • Donate!
  • Shop! (I wear a 2x tee, and my birthday is in August…)
  • Put on a fundraiser!
  • Follow & share!  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Vimeo
    • I personally particularly enjoy PLC Senior Field Editor Matthew Willingham’s Instagram
  • Volunteer – If you’re a doctor or nurse, you can look into volunteer opportunities here. Or if you live in the Waco area, you can contact the stateside office here.

International Rescue Committee

Where: Worldwide, and in crisis zones of Nigeria, Burundi, Greece, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The method:

irc_logo_rgb_large.jpg“Internationally, IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning, protection, and economic support to people in more than 30 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. When crisis occurs, the IRC arrives on the scene within 72 hours with urgently needed relief supplies and expertise. The IRC stays as long as required, helping survivors to heal, recover, and rebuild their communities. In the United States, IRC teams help resettle thousands of refugees each year in nearly 30 cities”

One of the more interesting strategies I read about on the IRC website is
cash relief. Rather than just providing the goods, cash relief helps families to purchase necessities and regain control over their lives, while also keeping money in the local economy. Like Preemptive Love Coalition, sustainable solutions are central to the IRC mission.

As a data and research geek myself,  I am very excited by the work of the Airbel Center. In humanitariaphotos%2F2012%2F01%2F3877ffa6685d149c.jpgn work, resources are limited. Research matters because it’s important that we seek the most cost effective solutions to humanitarian crises.

“The Airbel Center’s mission is to design and test life-changing, scalable solutions for people affected by crisis. By bringing together field staff, designers, strategists, researchers and technical experts, we aim to uncover and nurture ideas that make a big impact on people’s safety, health, education, income and power.”

The impact:

In 2016 alone, the IRC served over 26 million people in various ways. (You can check out more stats here.) And like PLC, the IRC seeks not only to serve locals in the short term, but leaves a lasting (and sustainable) improvement.

To demonstrate, here are few of my favorite stories from the IRC website:

  1. Congo: “The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners implemented a large-scale community-driven reconstruction (CDR) program called Tuungane (“Let’s unite” in the local Kiswahili language) from 2007 to 2016. Funded by the UK Government, this program took place in more than 1,900 conflict-affected communities of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a budget of approximately 103.7 million GBP.”
  1. 1_5_1.jpgThe Muppets & Education: “The Muppets are embarking on humanitarian missions. This spring, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for the Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, a director at the International Rescue Committee, announced a collaboration to develop educational programs for refugee children.”
  1. Jordan:There are limited livelihood options for refugees in Jordan and they can face negative repercussions if they are caught working without necessary permits. Recognizing the direct benefits many vulnerable families will receive from financial assistance, the IRC started its cash assistance program in May 2013, and has since reached over 4,100 vulnerable Syrian and Jordanian families in Mafraq and Irbid Governorates.”

How you can help:images

If neither of these organizations appeal to you, there are other organizations serving refugees. The organizations in the following list also have opportunities to get involved, give, and volunteer. We cannot stay silent when so many are suffering. Find a way to plug in, and let us know what you’re doing! refugee_sign.jpg

Child Soldiers: An Introduction

According to UNICEF, there are approximately 250,000 child soldiers across the world, and Human Rights Watch estimates that nearly half of that number is made up of child soldiers from the continent of Africa. 250,000 children!!! This shouldn’t be, and raising awareness and figuring out what we can do even here in North America will help in eradicating the practice of making children soldiers.


by Channon Oyeniran

“Compelled to become instruments of war, to kill and be killed, child soldiers are forced to give violent expression to the hatreds of adults.” – Olara Otunnu

I’ve been putting off writing on this topic for a couple of months now. Why? Because it is never easy to think about — let alone write about — innocent children and how they are dragged into conflicts that have nothing to do with them. However, after learning more about child soldiers and that it is a huge part of modern day slavery while completing my Masters degree in the UK, I came to realize how deeply this subject affects me, and I wanted to shed some light on the topicimages-1. According to UNICEF, there are approximately 250,000 child soldiers across the world, and Human Rights Watch estimates that nearly half of that number is made up of child soldiers from the continent of Africa. 250,000 children!!! This shouldn’t be, and raising awareness and figuring out what we can do even here in North America will help in eradicating the practice of making children soldiers.

The definition of a soldier found on says this: “one engaged in military service and especially in the army,” also “an enlisted man or woman.” Nowhere in the definitions that I looked up and read did they say anything about a child being a soldier, but somehow, over time, people have turned impressionable, innocent children into vessels that are emotionless, who kill and whose hearts have turned cold. How did child soldiers come about? Let’s take a look.

What is a Child Soldier?

mi300-gps-mobile-phones-child-soldier-1024-74754Child soldiers are under the age of 18 and are used primarily for military purposes. Some children are used to fight, forced to kill or carry out other violent acts, used as suicide bombers, cooks, messengers, informants, spies, amongst other things. Child soldiers can be either boys or girls, can be teenagers or as young as four years old. In many cases, child soldiers are sexually abused, manipulated and brainwashed by their commanders.

Which countries have the most Child Soldiers?

child-soldierAs mentioned above, there are approximately 250,000 child soldiers around the world. As we can see in the image above, child soldiers can be found in African nations, South America and in parts of the Middle East and Asia. According to a report on children and armed forces by the UN Secretary-General, there is a list which identifies armed forces and groups that recruit and use children. As of 2016, the countries that are a part of this list include: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic, Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Colombia, Nigeria and the Philippines. As we all have heard by now, on January 27th 2017, the President of the United States issued a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, five of which are included in this list: Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. This post not only discusses the tragedy of child soldiers in the above listed countries, but it places an emphasis on the harsh realities of orphans and refugees beyond what may be seen in the media.

517189918With the number of civil wars that occur in various African nations, it is no wonder that more than 125,000 child soldiers in the world are found on the continent of Africa. Children are used as nothing more than a tool within wars and because they are more compliant and easier to manipulate than adults, it is easier to kidnap them and train them to become soldiers. Also, if children are refugees or orphans, there is a greater risk that they can be abducted and recruited to be child soldiers. Those children that willingly “join” a country’s armed forces do so because they may feel that they don’t have any options. These children often live in poverty, and education is not an option for them. Hence they are more susceptible to the “appeal” of becoming a child soldier and join armed forces.


Some facts about Child Soldiers:, an organization that is “a global movement for good,” has listed out 11 facts about child soldiers, and I think these facts paint a clear picture of the realities of child soldiers. Here they are:

1.Child soldiers are any children under the age of 18 who are recruited by a state or non-state armed group and used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes. 7. In the last 2 years, 20 states have been reported to have child soldiers in government, government-affiliated, and non-state armed groups. Additionally, 40 states still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.
2. In the last 15 years, the use of child soldiers has spread to almost every region of the world and every armed conflict. Though an exact number is impossible to define, thousands of child soldiers are illegally serving in armed conflict around the world. 8. Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.
3. Some children are under the age of 10 when they are forced to serve. 9. A few of the countries who have reported use of child soldiers since 2011 are Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
4. Two-thirds of states confirm that enrollment of soldiers under the age of 18 should be banned to prohibit forced child soldiers, as well as 16- and 17-year-old armed force volunteers. 10. Despite a government agreement in the District of Chad to demobilize the recruitment of child soldiers, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 children under 18 serving in combat and fulfilling other purposes in 2007.
5. Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited. 11. The recruitment of child soldiers breaks several human rights laws. Children who have committed crimes as soldiers are looked upon more leniently, crimes committed voluntarily are subject to justice under the international juvenile justice standards.
6. Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.


As showchild_soldier_the_congo_tshirt2n here, in most cases, child soldiers are forced, coerced and virtually have no choice in whether they become a soldier or not. Another factor that is prevalent in other forms of modern slavery is that many of these children and youth come from countries, communities and families where poverty has greatly affected them, therefore for them, there is this false sense that if they willingly join these armed forces that they will have security, monetary value and food.


Effects of becoming a child soldier:9749285

The effects of being a child soldier are long-lasting and it can take many years for those who come out of it to fully feel “whole” and feel like a productive member of society. Here are some effects according to a study by Chris Blattman, in his paper titled “The Consequences of Child Soldiering,” that those who have been or are child soldiers experience:

  • “Since abductees lost their education years to combat, they are nearly twice as likely to be functionally illiterate than non-abductees.
  • Abductees subsequently earn nearly one third less than their non-abducted peers. Work found by abductees tends to be of a lower skill and capital-intensity.
  • Some socialisation of former abductees into post-conflict violent/aggressive behavior is indicated, but this could reflect a greater willingness of former abductees to admit to this behavior.
  • There is little evidence of social exclusion of abductees. Self-reported acceptance rates back into the community are high.
  • Abductees are much more likely to vote and participate in community and political life than non-abductees.
  • Psychological impacts appear to be moderate; serious psychological trauma is concentrated in a minority of abductees. The average difference in levels of psychological distress between abducted and non-abducted youth is relatively modest.”



What can YOU do to help:

Get involved with an organization that works to end child soldiering. Here are a few to check out:

In Conclusion:

In my opinion, turning children into soldiers is one of the most traumatizing and life shattering experiences anyone can ever live through. It is a deplorable act that needs immediate attention to stop it completely. Seeing images, reading articles and even learning about child soldiers in school did not give me a clear picture about what being a child soldier was really like. It wasn’t until I watched the movie, Beasts of No Nation, a 2015 war drama, that I really began to understand what the full extent of being a child soldier entails. This movie really captures the process of becoming a child soldier and was shown at the 72nd Venice International Film Feabraham-beasts-08192015.jpgstival, the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and released worldwide on Netflix in 2015. This movie hit me hard, and I encourage everyone to see it on Netflix.

I believe truly that children are the future. They are the ones who will move this world and society forward and we have to invest in them and allow them to experience being a child. Not dealing with hateful, dark things that are forced upon them. Hoping that child soldiering comes to an end in my lifetime, so that the future remains bright and hopeful!


For more information…


5th Tuesday Guest Post: Islam & Religious Freedom in America

Completely different religions can coexist in America just as easily as different denominations of Christianity. There aren’t campaigns where Methodist try to convert all Baptists, and churches with totally different beliefs collaborate to accomplish work in the community. The same type of collaboration is possible between churches and mosques.

by Josh Shelton

825810372208816128-png__700There’s debate about whether the recent executive order can fairly be called a “Muslim ban.” On the campaign trail, the proposal started as “a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the US” and evolved into “extreme vetting.” When asked if the executive order had anything to do with religion, Former Mayor Giuliani also described the President’s intention as a “Muslim ban.” Legal permanent residents (with green cards) were also affected by this ban. Iraqi interpreters and other soldiers who fought and served alongside US troops are also barred from entering the US.

Whether the President intended to target Muslims or just possible terrorists, many Americans have a very hard time making any distinction between refugees, peaceful Muslims, and extremists.

Michael “Duke” Lowrie is a Bossier City candidate for the Louisiana House of Representatives this year, and he has proposed boycotting any business that employs a follower of Islam—not businesses making political or religious statements—literally any business with a Muslim employee. Lowrie went on to say, “I will challenge every Islamist (sic) I see to denounce their false god and religion. Those Islamist (sic) here walk among us in stores and we act as if they’re no different than any of us. Well I’m sorry they are different.” Far from being an isolated case of Islamophobia, Lowrie’s candidacy comes at a time when violence against Muslims has risen to post-9/11 levels.

Imagine if a politician was making these kinds of harsh statements about Catholics, Pentecostals, or Baptists. It may seem incomprehensible today, but there have been times when Americans were this paranoid about other groups of Christians.

Persecution of Christians in America

https3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f3649662f08147d4b-988a-4a3f-b23d-4f2838a2a4b5In spite of America’s historical emphasis on religious freedom, virtually every religious and ethnic group has faced paranoia and oppression at some point. Catholics and German immigrants are two noteworthy examples. Anti-Catholic sentiment was present even in the colonial era, such that the founding fathers made a point of being inclusive. In the Bible riots of 1844, Catholic homes and churches were destroyed. Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon faith) was killed by a mob the same year. Even as recently as 1960, JFK had to give a speech assuring voters that he would not “take orders from the Pope.” What’s interesting is that the average believer still has a very limited understanding about the differences between different branches of the Christian faith. Modern Baptists generally speaking aren’t more informed about Catholicism than their ancestors; they have just learned that coexistence is easy and beneficial. Denominations can have fundamentally different ideas about the path to salvation, and yet they can also collaborate on work in the community.

Elevated Tensions in Times of War


Language barriers, cultural differences, and the threat of concientiousobjectorsterrorist attacks all heighten people’s anxiety about Muslim immigrants. Again, history has relevant examples for comparison. Amish and Old Order Mennonites are now viewed positively as hard-working Christians adhering to a peaceful and simpler way of life. Back in WWII, however, these communities were viewed with extreme distrust. Why would someone come to America and refuse to integrate into our culture? Many communities still persist in speaking Pennsylvania Dutch instead of English, even after generations of living in America. Even more incomprehensible, many of these able-bodied men were conscientious objectors in a war against German and Japanese imperialism. To an unsympathetic observer, it was easy to see the Amish as Germans on American soil.

All across America—Texas, Washington, and Michigan all have entire towns dedicated to German culture. Turbans and mosques seem threatening to many Americans, and yet we have come to see towns of German immigrants as tourist attractions. People who lash out against Muslims also end up attacking people of completely different faiths. Over 500,000 American Sikhs practice a religion from Southern Asia, and yet they are routinely harassed by people who perceive them as Muslim.

“But Islam is Different”

Some people claim that Islam doesn’t deserve protection as a religion because it also has rules governing diet, clothing, and other lifestyle choices. Of course, any Christian who opens their Old Testament will see long lists of laws governing everything from diet to fabric choices. Others have spread misguided fear about “Sharia courts.” The truth is that Americans are woefully uninformed about Islam. We’ve been at war in the Middle East for decades, and yet Americans know only a handful of second-hand stereotypes about Islam.

A 2007 photo of Munira Ahmed was the basis for the poster made by Shepard Fairey.

Nearly half of Americans do not know a single Muslim, and a majority of Americans know either nothing at all (30%) or not very much (25%) about the Muslim religion and its practices.

With over 1.6 million adherents, Islam takes many different forms in different cultures. Still, the vast majority of believers are concerned about extremism and opposed to groups like ISIS. Peaceful Muslims are potential allies in the prevention of terrorist attacks. On the other hand, making life harder for all Muslims will play into the East-vs-West narrative presented by ISIS and other extremists.

Myths About Islam

While Americans know incredibly little about Islam, we have all heard a few catch phrases  of propaganda that make religious war seem inevitable. The most problematic falsehood is that “Christianity and Islam cannot coexist.” The religions can and do peacefully coexist in countries all around the world. I personally spent two years in Cameroon, a country that borders Nigeria. I lived in two Muslim towns with a Christian population around 20 percent. I witnessed more tension between Baptists and Catholics in Louisiana than between Christians and Muslims in Cameroon. It is not a perfect democracy, and yet Cameroon maintains a high degree of religious tolerance nationwide.

A Methodist Pastor and a Muslim Imam collaborate together in Dallas.

Completely different religions can coexist in America just as easily as different denominations of Christianity. There aren’t campaigns where Methodist try to convert all Baptists, and churches with totally different beliefs collaborate to accomplish work in the community. The same type of collaboration is possible between churches and mosques. In Sweden, this kind of inter-faith cooperation has helped to find housing for refugees.

Founding fathers like Jefferson and Washington made it clear that America’s religious freedom extended to Muslims. Now, Christians must also determine a Christ-like response to refugees and immigrants with different cultures and faiths.


For More Information…


Here’s a GUIDE to what you can do when you see Islamophobia in action.