What is Red Hand Day?
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.
Facts about child soldiering
- Thousands of children under the age of 18 are currently fighting in wars in at least 17 countries worldwide — some as young as eight years old.
- 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.”
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.
Arthur’s Story – Once a child soldier, now an ambassador for peace!
Arthur has faced the horrors of war from an incredibly young age. He grew up in DR Congo. As a little boy, he lost both his mom and dad in rebel conflict in their region.
Then, at only seven years old, he was taken and forced to be a child soldier in a rebel militia. For a year, Arthur was under the command of a captain in the rebel militia, serving as his personal guard.
“I experienced difficulties – looting, rape, combat, hard labor, whipping, and no shelter. All of this traumatized me.”
After a year with the rebels, Arthur was rescued. He went through a brief demobilization program and then reunited with some of his surviving family members. Sadly, this was not a safe place to call home. His family, like many in DRC, stigmatized him due to being a former child soldier. Arthur struggled with this and lost hope for living. He began to wander aimlessly.
When Arthur was 11 years old, Exile’s team in Congo connected with him. We welcomed him into our rehabilitative care program and our Peace Lives Center. Through art-focused trauma care, discipleship, education, mentorship, and leadership development, Arthur has found love and healing for his wounds of war.
When he joined our program, Arthur practiced the Muslim faith. Through his time with Exile, he came to know Jesus! He has been baptized and is a part of the local church.
Recently, Arthur was reunited with his community! This is the ultimate goal for the war-affected youth Exile serves. We are thrilled to see Arthur experience reunification and healing from his wounds of war!
Once a rescued child soldier, now a leader for peace and ambassador for Christ!
“I praise my God because He saved me. Currently, I preach peace through expressive drama. Long live Exile International!” – Arthur
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