Dispatch From Sierra Leone: Suckled on Gunpowder

Rescuing children with blood on their hands.
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Imagine you are 10 years old. You see your parents brutally killed in front of you and then are befriended by fighters who say they will help you avenge your parents' death. They feed and clothe you. You start to clean their weapons. They give you a gun to carry, and they let you fire it once or twice. Soon you begin to get involved in the fighting. Unknown to you they have also been slipping gunpowder into your food. It makes you brave but it is also highly addictive. You go with the fighters and watch as they instill fear into the villagers. "These are the people responsible for killing your parents," they say. With a gun or machete in your hand, all the grief and anger wells up, and before you know it you've crossed the line. Now blood is on your hands too.

Now imagine that you are called to provide healing for this child. This is the mission of the Nehemiah Project in Sierra Leone.

Musa was captured when he was 18 months old after witnessing the murder of both his parents. He was brought up by rebels and trained for five years as a fighter in the nation's capital, Free town. He was violent, hostile, and incredibly traumatized, one of thousands of victims of a recurrent civil war.

Today, scores of children with behavioral problems like Musa's are trying to come to terms with the brutality they have been exposed to in their short lives. Without help they will not only be a continuing threat to society, but will become fathers to another lawless generation. "A second war front has opened to rescue a generation that cannot be incorporated into normal society," says Pastor Richard Cole, a Sierra Leonean working on the frontline for such children. "Young boys who live on the street are violent, lost, and without any hope unless ...

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