Skip to main content

Statement on Child Soldiers, adopted by the 8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, December 1998


Hundreds of thousands of children under the age of eighteen, girls as well as boys, are enrolled today in national or irregular armed forces around the world. More than 300,000 children are currently engaged in armed conflicts. Many have been lawfully recruited, others have been kidnaped or otherwise coerced, the overwhelming majority of child soldiers come from marginalized and excluded sectors of society.


The involvement of children in armed conflicts violates fundamental humanitarian principles, exposes them to the risk of death and injury, threatens their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, and draws them into a culture of violence.


The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe 3-14 December 1998:


  1. Recalls the affirmation of the First Assembly that war is contrary to the will of God;
  2. Renews its commitment to seek the delegitimization of war and violence and to strive to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of war;
  3. Restates its opposition to any policy or authority which violates the rights of the younger generation, abuses or exploits them;
  4. Condemns any use of children in warfare;
  5. Calls upon its member churches to: call for an immediate moratorium on the recruitment and participation of children as soldiers and the demobilization of existing child soldiers; assist those engaged in the rehabilitation, social reintegration and reconciliation; of former child soldiers, taking particular account of the needs of former girl soldiers; work to prevent the compulsory or voluntary recruitment or re-recruitment of children as soldiers in national armies or irregular armed forces or groups; promote the establishment of international standards to this effect, in particular the adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child raising the minimum age from 15 to 18 years for all forms of recruitment and participation in hostilities; urge their national governments to adopt and apply such standards in their own national legislation.
  6. Calls especially upon member churches in Africa to advocate for the prompt ratification by their governments of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which prohibits the recruitment to armed forces and participation in hostilities of children under 18 years.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.