Bishop Guillory in Liberia: Former Child Soldiers Tell Their Stories

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Bishop Curtis J. Guillory celebrates Mass at St. Dominic’s Parish in Tubmanburg, Liberia. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS.

Most Rev. Curtis J. Guillory SVD, Bishop of Beaumont, Texas, who is on Catholic Relief Service’s Board of Directors, is visiting Liberia this week. Yesterday, Bishop Guillory visited St. Dominic’s Parish in Tubmanburg, which has received CRS funding over the years.

At the parish, Bishop Guillory was escorted by Father Gary Jenkins who arrived in Liberia in 1973 and stayed throughout the 14-year civil war. Father Gary works with and counsels children who were involved in the conflict. Bishop Guillory met with five young men involved in the war. He also celebrated Mass with community members, ate lunch with church staff, and visited students (and their dormitories). Here are his reflections about the day.

I’d heard about the child soldiers; I’d read about them. But to actually be present with them, especially the five we met with after lunch …

They were playing ball and all of a sudden they were picked up and taken to a camp. I can imagine the shock. These were kids. They were taken away from their parents, particularly their mothers. They were in a totally different environment, a very violent environment — and forced to carry a gun, forced to kill, forced to carry ammunition. Like the one boy said, you could never tell the commanders you were tired.

Yet there is hope for them. With Father Gary and Father Henry at St. Dominic’s Parish, there’s a solid community there to try to integrate them back into society, trying to help them deal with many traumas and to give them a sense that it’s not their fault. That’s one of the points I was trying to make. They’re not responsible for what they saw or what they did because it was forced upon them and if they didn’t do it they would have probably been killed.

When I was talking to them my heart was very heavy. I was trying to imagine what I would do in that situation. To be honest, it’s unimaginable. I guess I would hopefully turn out the way they did. These kids, like I told them, they are really heroes. Not only were they able to survive this ordeal, they seem to be dealing with it. They’re the leaders of the future.

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Bishop Guillory at St. Dominic’s. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS.

The other thing that informed, impressed and inspired me was that those kids were thanking God that they were saved. The faith is just so strong, so vibrant, so alive. All of that is helping to integrate these kids and the whole community because everyone suffered from this extended and brutal and violent war.

I’ve been on the CRS Board now for four years. CRS brings skills. They bring resources, technology. But one of the things that I’ve always found to be CRS’ great gift was the spirit of compassion and understanding they bring. They’re involved with the people. They get involved in the lives of the people. They try to understand the customs and the culture. They come in and try to find out from the people what are their needs and in many cases how those needs ought to be met. CRS really tries to be as much as possible a part of the community, a part of the lives of the people. I think that brings about a great amount of respect, a great amount of trust.

CRS has the reputation of going to those remote places where people won’t go, don’t want to go or can’t go. We’re with the poorest of the poor.

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3 Responses to “Bishop Guillory in Liberia: Former Child Soldiers Tell Their Stories”

  1. Jeffrey Ruthven Says:

    I am trying to organize a Knights of Columbus fundraiser for Child Soldiers. Who can we send this money to to best DIRECTLY aid present and past child soldiers? I will be speaking on this subject to our council Monday evening.
    Together, I hope that we can ease their sufferings and help free today’s child soldiers.

    Jeffrey,
    Let me check first thing on Monday and see if CRS has a fund specifically for child soldiers. If we do, any donations received will be used for that purpose. John R. CRS Blog editor.

    Update:
    Jeffrey,
    I have not been able to locate a specific charity that deals only with child soldiers. CRS, however, does work with child solidiers in several countries, most prominently in Northern Uganda and Sierra Leone (as the post you commented on indicates).
    While we do not have an account specifically designated for child soldiers in Liberia, we do honor donor intent. If you designate funds for Sierra Leone, they will ultimately benefit child soldiers, as well as other programs that assist and give hope to our brothers and sisters.

  2. Jeffrey Ruthven Says:

    Dear John,
    First, I would like to thank you on your coordination concerning this request. I will pass on the information which you have passed on to us. I do however wonder if there is a group of Sisters or Brothers who deal with this matter directly. (i.e. A group of Sisters who take in, educate, and treat kids, or even past child soldiers) I know this is a lot to ask and may prove difficult to solve. I may try contacting a bishop or even the American Embassy to the Vatican to get more info. If I hear anything, I will surely share this information with you.
    Thank you so much, and I will let you know what we decide to do tonight.
    Jeff Ruthven

  3. fazal u rehman Says:

    i like crs NGOs so much .
    its great reaserch in all over world .
    thnx it may go a head.

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