Armed cartels in Colombia have drastically increased their child recruitment activities this year during the COVID-19 pandemic (The Guardian, November 9, 2020). Taking advantage of the increased poverty in some Colombian regions, cartels are offering to pay families up to twice the minimum wage to employ their children in the service of the cartel. “If a community doesn’t have access to running water, education, recreational spaces and other basic elements, then the risk of child recruitment increases…. Militias lure children with promises of cash, mobile phones and motorcycles.” If families fail to comply, the children are often forcibly pressed into the cartel’s service anyway.
Due to the pandemic, thousands of children are out of school with nothing to do, and for many, no online learning options exist. This creates opportunities for cartel recruitment. Governments are in a dilemma as they try to protect children against COVID-19 by keeping schools closed while also trying to protect them from the cartels. Many families are forced to flee certain regions in order to protect their children.
Actions by drug cartels in Colombia and paramilitary bodies such as Africa’s Boko Haram clearly demonstrate a tragic disregard for human life—especially the lives of children. These groups demonstrate characteristics that are exactly the opposite of God’s, who loves children. The Bible reveals that when Jesus Christ returns to set up His Kingdom on earth, “great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13). No longer will children be born into a world where they are “doomed to misfortune” (Isaiah 65:23, NIV). At that time, children will no longer live in fear, because Jesus Christ will have returned and removed the current god of this age (Ephesians 2:2; Zechariah 14:9). As we witness the tragic suffering of children today, we need to remember there is a better time coming. To learn more about the encouraging days ahead, watch “Hope for the Future.”