Former Child Soldiers in Central African Republic Benefiting from Jesuit Entity’s Training

Credit: Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS)

More than 300 children who served as child soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been given an opportunity to transform their lives through training opportunities spearheaded by Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS), an international refugee entity of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

In a Monday, May 16 report, JRS leadership says that children in CAR have been at high risk of abuse, recruitment, and exploitation by armed groups since the onset of civil unrest in 2013.

“To foster the social inclusion of children…, in 2017 JRS CAR began campaigning to demobilize young people and provide them with educational and training opportunities,” JRS officials say in the report.

They add in reference to the training opportunities, “Given the stigma faced by former child soldiers, these activities also targeted the broader community, to encourage reconciliation and promote social cohesion.”

In the report, the officials of the Catholic entity say that since the inception of the program five years ago, many children have left combat grounds and joined the program. They say that the children have learned new skills and are now living a new life.


Funded by UNICEF and JRS USA, the program seeks to empower young children among them the victims of war who were forced to become child soldiers because of harsh living conditions, among them poverty.

In the May 16 report, JRS officials highlight some of the victims of the civil war in CAR and the challenges they went through that compelled them to become soldiers. According to JRS officials, the victims are not identified by their real names.

One of the former child soldiers is Pierre, currently trained as a mechanic by JRS and working in one of the towns in CAR as a mechanic. 

JRS recounts the story of Pierre who lost his parents when he was only nine years’ old. At that tender age, Pierre and his older brother, having no other option, became “runners” for a local armed group and lived “in the bush” with them for years. He quitted violence when he lost his brother in the violence.

“Life as a soldier had not been easy but going back to civilian life proved to be even harder. I went through a lot. I was rejected (by society). People talked about me,” he told JRS.

More in Africa

In the May 16 report, JRS officials say, “In 2017, Pierre participated in a motorbike mechanics training and began working soon after. Through his work, today he contributes to the household of his uncle, with whom he lives.”

According to the leadership of the Jesuits’ entity, Pierre has been transformed by the training as he can fend for himself and therefore has the ability to determine his own future.

Sylvester, who also joined child soldiers at nine shares the same experience. Just like Pierre, Sylvester had to return to the village after his leaders were killed at the forefront. He experienced stigma from villagers as he had no family.

“Through a JRS training, Sylvester learnt how to produce soap and set up his own shop,” JRS officials say, and add, “While the business has its challenges, such as investing money to buy materials for production, Sylvester is happy to be independent and have a place in his community.”

In the report, JRS officials further say that “by providing livelihood opportunities to former child soldiers like Pierre, and creating spaces of hospitality and welcome, communities can re-discover their shared humanity.”


CAR is among countries across the world in which JRS continues building bridges among forcibly displaced people and between refugees and host communities.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.