30 March 2009

War Child

"My time at the front line taught me just one thign about war - the worst is when it is over. As the battle falls silent, only the screams of the injured can be heard, and when the guns stop firing, and the smell of smoke fades away, the stench of flesh and blood fills the air. Jenajesh were always the ones who screamed the most, and I heard them at night when I returned to Kurki 1 to try to rest. I never slept properly, keeping one eye open all night in case our enemy tried to attack and feeling the weight of my gun next to me. When the battle at the front line had been bad, I didn't want to eat meat for days as I remembered the smell. It reminded me of being a small boy and was so heavy I was sure it had sunk into my heart forever, just as it had on the day I walked Death Route with Mamma and Nyakouth. I felt torn inside, knowing I was safer at Kurki 1 but still dreaming of seeing a jallaba's face as I shot his heart." (Jal 144)

Emmanuel Jal became a child soldier while he was still shorter than his AK-47. Before that, he had seen his villagers sliced, shot, torn apart by bombs, RPG's, and grenades. He saw the women in his family raped and felt hunger for months.

His father abandoned him, and he was sent to train. The rage that filled him from the things he'd seen done to his people drove him. He thought God had abandoned him and forgot what love was.

But one aid worker, Emma McCune, saw something in him. Now he is an international rap star, rhyming about Jesus and peace and war and hope. His music refuses to stay in the background as I study.

I just finished his book, War Child, and bought his album by the same name. This man has much to teach us: he learned more before he was seven than I could ever hope to learn. Yet no one should have to learn like that.

If I could recommend one book, other than the Bible, it would be this one.

"Children should be going to school, not fighting in battles, because they will still lose their life even if they survive." (Jal 256)

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