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(Bogota) February 11, 2013 – Jesuit Refugee Service in Colombia launched this year's activities marking Tuesday, February 12, Red Hand Day, to express their rejection of the recruitment and use of children and adolescents in war and armed conflict.

According to the UN estimates, more than 250,000 minors were being used as child soldiers in 2007, in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Israel, Uganda and Somalia. (related story: Democratic Republic of Congo: school, the best deterrent against the recruitment of minors.)

Despite the distinct struggles and campaigns undertaken every year against the use of child soldiers, official armies and rebel groups continue recruiting minors into their ranks, both voluntarily and involuntarily, forcing them to undertake dangerous tasks that violate their fundamental human rights to housing, health, education, and recreation while causing momentous traumas in their emotional, psychological and interpersonal development.

Throughout the armed conflict in Colombia, armed groups have employed methods of recruitment and involvement of minors in the dynamics of the conflict. 

Still today, boys and girls between seven and 17 years of age participate directly and indirectly throughout ongoing hostilities in the armed conflict in Colombia. Minors are normally recruited voluntary and then used as combatants, explosive carriers, messengers or guides.

Given the particular circumstances of the armed conflict in Colombia, boys and girls are not recruited by armed groups to carry a gun, but to serve their commanders as slaves, forced to collect firewood, set up camps, serve as informants, pick coca leaves, carry drugs, or further participate in a chain of micro-drug trafficking. They are also often the victims of sexual abuse.

Children who are involved in micro-trafficking often use and distribute drugs; the groups involved in micro-trafficking and criminal activity recruit minors and use them to sell small amounts of drugs in an attempt to outwit the authorities.

Six hundred and seventy-three minors were detained in 2012 for micro-trafficking of drugs in Medellín, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, Cúcuta, Pereira, Ibagué, Cartagena and Villavicencio.

Join the world Red Hand campaign. Faced by this sad reality of the violation of the rights of children, JRS Colombia commemorates Red Hand Day with the slogan: Stop! End the use and recruitment of boys, girls and adolescents in war.

JRS Colombia will use social media, Facebook and Twitter, to send messages to the members of their networks or friendly social networks.

On February 12, JRS Colombia will support public awareness of Red Hand Day.

For this JRS Colombia counts on your support by asking you to take a photo of yourself in some symbolic part of your city, where you can see your right hand painted in red and upload it onto your Facebook page. Then, in the description insert a commitment to children and young people in your family, country or community.

JRS Colombia joins the world in one voice in support of the defense of children's rights against their involvement in armed conflict.

If you wish to know more about the campaign, visit the JRS Latin America website, where news, images and video regarding JRS activities in Colombia will be posted.

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