Children, Suicide Bombers, and That Place Between Privilege and Despair

Many people have heard of the invisible children in Africa, but there’s a recent TED talk about schools for children suicide bombers in the Taliban. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy worked with children under training and with Taliban recruiters for a year to document their efforts. Recruiters target poor families and promise free food, care, and compensation. 5 step process: (1) separate parents from children from poor regions, (2) teach the Koran heavily distorted with no access to any media, (3) make the children hate the world with beatings and harsh living circumstances, (4)  talk about the glories of martyrdom, (5) effective propaganda.

First, the brain-washing and training of these Pakistani children seem quite similar to practices described of Joseph Kony’s “Lord’s Resistance Army” camps in Africa. One difference being, it does not sound like the children are abducted, but, rather, negotiated or coerced into joining. Also, the Taliban indoctrinates through religious and nationalistic propaganda, while providing some form of education and literacy. I suppose this prepares the Taliban to have more globally minded strategies, as opposed to the LRA.

Second, I find that westerners are in a strange place between privilege and despair. I’d guess that it has to do with social inequality and broken families, but until the privileged can have hope, will we be able to fully supply the needs of those who are without. Perhaps we may find hope among the children who’ve yet to understand despair, but how do we inspire people to use their liberties to liberate others?

We are the hope that we cannot see….


5 thoughts on “Children, Suicide Bombers, and That Place Between Privilege and Despair

  1. Hi Sherol,
    I doubt a child (unless truly ill) would concoct such destructive behavior on their own. The concept that people who don’t share your beliefs are “infidels” or just inherently defective will surely not bring about love and caring towards fellow humans. The concept of an ‘after life’, that excludes others who are merely different, can on be seen as an intentional manipulation of children, even if benignly intended.
    Should there not be a ‘hands off until adult’ (16-18 years old) standard adopted all religions and philosophies? Let all people have the right to choose their belief systems as they move into adulthood.

  2. @Caleb,

    Whoa whoa.. There are so many huge discussions to be had… I’ll try to pick them out… haha.

    – I agree. Children, as Sharmeen described, are being leveraged as “sacrificial lambs” for appalling ends. For example, Joseph Kony, from Uganda, builds armies of children, because they are so easily manipulated.

    – I don’t believe, however, that having exclusive belief systems is the cause of such evils. In fact, it’s unavoidable to have exclusive belief systems. Culture and morality are two examples of such.

    – I agree that hateful, judgmental, and self-righteous beliefs will not bring about love and caring towards fellow humans.

    – I don’t, however, agree that the extremists from the Taliban represent the whole Islam religion. Not too long ago I went to a Multi-faith forum at Stanford, where I met Imam Jihad Turk. He spoke beautifully about the Islamic religion, more info here: http://multifaithforum.stanford.edu/Speaker_Bios.html

    – In most (Western) cases, I don’t believe children are forced to adopt any religion besides what they get from their parents. That said, I think it’d be very unlikely to enforce how people ought to raise their kids, unless the parents were training them to kill people.

    – I believe that kids should learn as much about religion and philosophy as soon as they are ready for it. Seeing how sunday schools go, it’s quite obvious that we sell children short of what they are capable of understanding. Being raised Buddhist, I was learning about human desire, reincarnation, suffering, and cessation long before I was a teenager.

    – Finally, are you saying that America holds the standard for “hands off?” To me, America leaves it up to the parents to decide what faith means to the family. If you mean that people also shouldn’t travel the world telling children about exotic religions, then I’d say that the missionaries I know don’t go abroad to proselytize, but rather to provide a service or facilitate a need (natural or spiritual).

    oy… i’m getting sleepy… I’ll edit this tomorrow 😛

  3. Hey Caleb,

    Thanks for the discussion and the information. I love it when people can talk about stuff that matters. I may not be able to find that bug in my program, but someone didn’t eat anything yesterday, b/c there’s no food for them to eat.

    Still, I find that religious indoctrination is a redherring to the problem of children not getting the appropriate love and care that they are entitled to.

    I think the point of this post was to point out our strange place between privilege and our inability to see a way out of the worlds problems.

    I think it’s succinctly put as: we are the hope that we cannot see.

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