Monday, March 26, 2007

Peace is more than the absence of war.....

...(peace) is about tolerance and understanding." These words were spoken by a teen, addressing a room full of journalists here in Johannesburg.

We have begun Day 2 of the 5th World Summit on Media for Children. Today's theme is PEACE BUILDING (Policy & Politics), and first up this morning was Prince Collins, a Liberian journalist. He introduced an ex-child soldier named Tipi Tappia, which whom he has been working. Liberia, a small country on West Coast of Africa, has endured fourteen years of bloody civil war, with more than 250,000 people killed. In Tipi Tappia’s own words:
I was 12-years-old when I joined the rebel force. I was taught how to shoot and kill; I was a very desperate kid during the war in my country. A volatile mix of cocaine and gunpowder is given to children to make them fear less in battle.

Because child soldiers witness death, killing and sexual violence, they suffer serious long-term psychological consequences, and often drug dependency. Re-integration is a complex process of atonement and rebuilding of communities. Tappia was accepted into a media program in which 50 former soldiers are working in radio, learning how to be journalists.

Tappia says this has saved his life. Right now we are good boys and girls, we don’t kill any more, we are free of the influence of harmful drugs. We are now doing positive things in our community, and we ask forgiveness of those we hurt during the war. Before I close, I want to appeal to all warlords to stop using us children to accomplish their inner motives. Please stop making us kill.

He was followed by American AP war correspondent Ian Stewart, who read gripping excerpts from his book "Ambushed," about being injured in Sierra Leone by child soldiers. He has reported extensively about conflict across the African continent, and also about the consequences for civilians who are tortured and children who are forcibly taken into the armies. He concluded by saying: The sad part for me is that I couldn’t get those stories into the newspapers in the West. Despite all the conflict and tragedy, there is a lot of hope in Africa. The world needs to see it.

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