I've been aware of Project: AK-47 for about 5 years. I wore the dog tags for a few months because I thought they were cool, but that was about the extent of my involvement. I never really grasped the potency of what I had around my neck. The name on the tag didn't just represent a child, this name was a child. I Su, 11 years old, Humberto, 7 years old, Ivrahim, 14 years old.
...17,000 children a year forced to fight...
My wife Christa Black has a quote from her book, God Loves Ugly: "Sometimes you have to go to war to find peace." Who is going to war for the more than 300,000 kids being kidnapped, abused, handed an automatic rifle and sent to kill "the enemy?" Who is going to war to stop the sobs of children crying themselves to sleep, knowing they can never wake up from their nightmare? Who is fighting to make sure these kids grow up with dolls and toy cars in their hands instead of guns and grenades? Who is fighting the war to keep their hands stained with finger-paint and not blood?
The generals of the Burmese army have required 7,000 new recruits PER MONTH. Of those 7,000 new recruits, 1,400 of them are below the age of 15. These children are kidnapped, then forced to learn to shoot guns and throw grenades. They're stripped of their dignity, their childhood, and their innocence. That's 17,000 children a year forced to fight and kill. I shoot computerized avatars in video games with adult ratings. I shoot Air-soft guns at my friends for recreation and a good laugh. These are real kids with real guns forced to kill real people....and their average age is 12-15.
...real kids with real guns forced to kill real people...
There are so many things in this world that I could hide from for the rest of my life in my own suburban fortress. I know that there is gross injustice that I will never have to experience first-hand in America. I know that there is pain and an endless amount of need that has the potential to eat up my time and resources. The questions I've been asking myself, and honestly having a tough time reconciling with my current worldview is this: Why not let these needs take my time and my resources? Why not let these needs drive me out of my comfort zone and into the fight for a better world?
Why not let these needs take my time and my resources?
So here I am, hoping I can make a difference--hoping to provide innocent children with the innocence they deserve. Educate yourself. Look at pictures until the reality of the pain and loss sets in. These problems aren't going away, this evil is very real. These kids need real hearts of real people to respond in real ways. Let's open our hearts! Let's open our mouths! Let's open our wallets! Let's open up their future!
--Forgotten Future: Children and Armed Conflict in Burma (HREIB, May 2009)
--No more denial: Children affected by armed conflict in Myanmar (Burma) (Watchlist in children and armed conflict, May 2009)
--My Gun Was As Tall As Me (Human Rights Watch, 2002)