Red Hand Day — February 12
Take action & elevate awareness on the Int’l Day Against Child Soldiering
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers adopted the “red hand” symbol in 1998 as part of its worldwide campaign against the use of child soldiers. Since the treaty banning the use of child soldiers (the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict) entered into force on February 12, 2002, Coalition partners have used this day as Red Hand Day, with many organizing local events using the red hand to raise awareness to the crisis of child soldiering.
Forced to Kill. Orphaned. Trafficked. Lost.
- Children as young as seven are kidnapped and forced to fight in rebel armies in at least 17 countries worldwide. Psychologically tortured and brainwashed — children are enslaved, forced to fight and to kill.
- On average, child soldiers are kept in captivity for three years.
- Once recruited, child soldiers may serve as porters or cooks, guards, messengers, or spies. Many are pressed into combat, where they may be forced to the front lines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops. Some children have been used for suicide missions.
- Children are sometimes forced to commit atrocities against their own families or neighbors. Such practices help ensure that the child is “stigmatized” and unable to return to his or her home community.
- Children are uniquely vulnerable to military recruitment because of their emotional and physical immaturity. They are easily manipulated and can be drawn into violence that they are too young to resist or understand.
- Many children join armed groups because of economic or social pressure, or because children believe that the group will offer food or security. Others are forcibly recruited, “press-ganged” or abducted by armed groups.
- Both girls and boys are used as child soldiers. In some countries, like Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Uganda, a third or more of the child soldiers were reported to be girls. In some conflicts, girls may be raped, or given to military commanders as “wives.”
Even still, hope is possible!
How you can get involved!
- Hand-in-Hand — Encourage your children, class, or youth group to use our activity sheet (download here) to trace your hand and decorate it creatively using red colors. Send them our way (address below), and we will hand-deliver them to the youth in our program as a reminder that they are loved.
- Sign the Petition — With your signature, you can take a stand to end child soldiering. Sign the petition here.
- Bake for change — Host a contact-free bake sale with red hand-shaped cookies and tell all your customers about your mission.
- Paint the town — Creatively display your red hands in your neighborhood, workplace, & school.
It’s more than painting or tracing red hands… it’s calling to action those who can make change happen
Help stop the abduction, abuse, & soldiering of children. Action begins with awareness.
Alexander’s Story – Once a child soldier, now an ambassador for peace!
When I was a young boy, I was captured by rebel soldiers and taken to their headquarters. I was beaten very badly and forced into armed combat.
Three months after my kidnapping, my parents came to beg the Rebel Colonel to release me, but they simply did not have the money to pay his ransom. Because they could not afford my release, I was left in rebel hands — terrified and traumatized by the evil acts they forced upon me each day.
After one year of suffering, I finally decided to attempt an escape. I was fortunately reunited with my community and soon learned about Exile International.
When I arrived at Exile, I began participating in art-focused trauma care, worship, and vocational programs that helped me heal from my wounds and return to school. I received my diploma in Technical Building and even secured a building contract for a local youth center.
After finishing Exile’s programs, I became an engineer and now have a family of my own. I’m able to help my community by sharing the confidence of Christ with other young people who have left the armed forced or lost hope.
I thank God for Exile International and the benefits of their programs for children who have experienced the horrors of war.”
3534 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37205