Jason Erlich

The Silhouette


What is an A.K. 47? What’s the muzzle velocity of an A.K. 47? How many bullets fit into an

A.K. 47? How does the gun work? How do you stab someone so they don’t make a noise? How do you kill another human?

I’m not speaking philosophically; I am referring to the mechanics of these actions.

Thankfully, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. However, there are many 11-year-olds in the world who do. Many of these same children couldn’t tell you what they want to be when they grow up, though they have dreams.

I doubt they could tell you who plays for Manchester United or Barcelona, though they may play football.

They will never know how to take these simple pleasures for granted. And it’s doubtful that having these things would solve all of their problems. But the fact is these children learn about weapons for the purpose of hurting others – and to keep themselves from being hurt.

These actions are not something 11-years-olds ought to know.

It’s a long way from a world where a child knows no war. But though we may be generations away from that happening, now is the time to seize the day and make that happen.

The issue of child soldiers is certainly in the public eye following the now-infamous KONY 2012 campaign, with its 100 million views, numerous critiques and unfortunate after effects for the film’s creator and narrator.

But with the issue at least gaining some momentum and attention, people – especially students – can at least try to understand how to make their time and skills useful for the issue.

It’s not just KONY 2012 and its parent organization, Invisible Children, that’s trying to help. (Full disclosure – I’m a Community Catalyst volunteer with War Child, which hires 90 per cent of its employees from the communities in which it operates).

But more important than any one organization is the raising of awareness and involvement in these issues.

It’s important to know what will actually help these issues, and it might be surprising that sending in military troops to capture a bad guy isn’t necessarily the solution. Charitable giving is a crowded marketplace, but other things like teaching skill sets and providing education opportunities can be self-sustaining and help bring understanding of the political and economic situations that will help bring local peace and change.

For us at McMaster, it’s even more important for us to recognize the local connection that ties our community to the issue: Two of our most successful alumni are Dr. Eric Hoskins and Dr. Samantha Nutt, who have helped bring attention to the issue through War Child and other avenues.

Both graduated from the Medicine Program at McMaster University, and Dr. Nutt is a famous Arts & Science grad.

Dr. Nutt’s book, Damned Nations, is a number-one Canadian best selling non-fiction book. She’s virtually a real-life superhero and her voice has been one of the most critical pieces in creating positive change in war zone countries.

With over a decade of experience in war-torn countries, she’s gone from our community to the world’s – a path I’m begging you to follow.

In the modern age of instantaneous global contact, it’s perhaps even more important to get involved. How can we be so attached to each other globally, yet so detached from unacceptable issues like child soldiers?

There are many questions to ask. What can you do for a problem so far away? Why should I care when there are problems of poverty and injustice so close to home?

But it’s more important to remember that when it comes to child soldiers, the options for where to turn for help are few and far between. It’s an underrepresented issue that needs our help.

My involvement as a supporter of War Child and the fight to stop the recruitment of child soldiers has helped me find passion to create a better world, especially when I think about an innocent young child being indoctrinated at a young age.

I think if we were able to substitute bad with good for these children, we could give them all kinds of positive uses for their lives.

We could create alternative positive outcomes for the children, and this could be the beginning of the end of their destructive nightmare.

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