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The story of Emmanuel JAL, former Sudanese child-warrior

Emmanuel JAL became a child-warrior at the age of 6-7 years old, soon after his father had left to join the resistance army and his mother had died. He fought until the age of 12-13, when he was saved by Emma, an English woman from an NGO, she managed to bring 150 such children across the border to Kenya and provide them with an education.

“When I was fighting, I was filled with hatred against all those that were killing our people. This hatred grew and grew against all Arabs and Muslims, because I thought they had destroyed my home. When I was smuggled out, the hatred remained, burnt inside me. It was a terrible burden, dark and bitter, for many years.

In my 20s, I started reading more to understand the situation. I read history books, the biographies and writings of persons who had a message of transformation, and was touched by William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King and especially Nelson Mandela. I started to realize that there were also good people out there and was intrigued how such persons came to be peaceful after all they had been through. I took inspiration from the Bible and also studied Islam and read the Koran. And I began to realize that the real underlying cause for all the killings I had witnessed was the greed for oil.

I realized that my heart could be clean, and as I learnt more, I was able to forgive.

Children are always clean and innocent. They don't know who their enemy is. You can influence them positively. Or give them negative energy. Their brain is like a sponge and their character can easily adopt to whichever influence.

With teens, I talk to them in different ways, it depends on the moment and the mood. I tell them how much I want to make a difference. That I want to help them understand that peace is a state of mind, that peace is in the heart. That it's with this state of mind and heart that peace can be made with their neighbor. It can't be achieved by force.”

Interviewed in Geneva, 21st September 2008, during a dinner organised by Geneva World, the NGO that organised his concerts and films during the 2008 World Peace Day events in Geneva.

See Emmanuel Jal's biography and quote.