Sierra Leone    212 CHILD SOLDIERS HANDED OVER TO CARITAS
Over the last few days, the rebels of the United Revolutionary Front of Sierra Leone have handed over 212 "child soldiers" to Caritas in the Makeni diocese.
   The news was disclosed to the MISNA missionary agency on Wednesday by Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi of Makeni, a promoter of the peace process in the country.
   "I am pleased because this is a gesture of good will that rekindles hope in our hearts," the Bishop commented.
   The 212 children, 32 of whom are girls, have been housed in the building of the Major Catholic Seminary of the city of Makeni, capital of the province of the North. The liberation of the child soldiers is one of the clauses of the peace agreements signed in 1999 between the government of Sierra Leone and the rebels. Last January a group of 227 children were released.
   During the Children's Jubilee on 2 January, Bishop Biguzzi travelled to Rome accompanied by 10 young soldiers who had just been liberated, to give their testimony to the 100,000 boys and girls who attended that event in St. Peter's Square. That day they met with John Paul II who spoke to them affectionately and assured them of the Church's commitment to continue freeing all the children who are compelled to fight in the civil war of that country.
   Zenit (available soon)
16/3/00

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