Ishmael Beah. Speaker. Child’s Rights Protector. Child Soldier.
In the hit book, A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah writes about his experiences as a child soldier. Before I read the book, I anticipated a difficult but excellent read, and I was not disappointed.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to speak to a former child soldier. This man, a friend of my dad, served under Joseph Kony for over two years until he managed to escape. While my conversations with him were short, he echoed the same thing that Ishmael says: child soldiers still exist today.
As I read A Long Way Gone, I was reminded of the human nature to sin. While the average man sins in average ways (see the Ten Commandments), occasionally we get glimpses of true sin. After all, serial killers and rapists are still found today. But, despite these small pieces of true sin, we are often blinded to the fact that this sin exists in everybody, including children. We are all capable of murder, but only a few give in to that terrible sin.
In his book, Ishmael tells the story of his recruitment into the Sierra Leone Army as a twelve-year-old. Unlike my friend, he was recruited for a just cause: holding back the Sierra Leone rebels. However, justice within the action does not make it any less wrong. Ishmael, along with his friends, was trained for one purpose: to kill the rebels. He is given an AK-47, taught how to use it, then sent to the front lines. While there, he witnessed the deaths of four out of his five friends and became responsible for the deaths of several dozen rebels, including children.
Eventually, he was relieved of duty and sent to Freetown, where he spent several months in a rehabilitation center. Eventually, his heart softened and he became a totally different man. Over the course of the following years, he went from a murderous, blood-loving child to a soft, caring man who supported his uncle (his parents and siblings died during the war). Eventually, he moved to the USA and has become an influential speaker on the topic of childcare, even speaking before the United Nations on the topic of child soldiers.
Obviously, I have not told even 10% of the full story. There is so much blood and hatred, it’s difficult to imagine someone going from such utter sin to living a normal life. While I’m sorry to say that Ishmael doesn’t make a radical conversion to Christ, he still manages to find peace and leave behind the wrongs of his past.
Child soldiers exist, and many have committed horrific acts. But, that doesn’t give us the right to shun them or pretend they don’t exist. We must pray for the former and current soldiers, for they are still people. God can work in anyone, including them.
Below, I have enclosed a link to Ishmael’s book, if you are interested. It was a sobering reminder of the world around me, something none of us should forget. Thanks for reading! Your support means so much to me. If you haven’t already, be sure to click that Follow button, so as to not miss out on any new posts. Thanks, and I hope you have a wonderful day!
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Picture credit: GALLO IMAGES/REUTERS/JACKY NAEGELEN