By BosNewsLife Americas Service
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BosNewsLife)– An international Christian rights group has welcomed the Colombian Supreme Court’s decision allowing Colombians, including Christians, to opt out of obligatory military service because of religious, moral, or philosophical objections.
“The decision to uphold the right to conscientious objection was made on October 16, 2009. Before this, only young men studying to be Catholic priests were guaranteed the right to claim an exemption,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement monitored Friday, October 30.
Several religious groups and Christian organizations, including the Colombian Mennonite Church which maintains a pacifist tradition, demanded for years the right to conscientious objection, which experts say has been by the Colombian Constitution.
CSW said it hopes it will end the massive displacement of youngsters. “Over the past couple of decades, many young Colombians have fled efforts to forcibly recruit them into illegal armed groups only to find themselves conscripted into the Colombian military, with no option to decline.”
THOUSANDS OF CHILD SOLDIERS
There are some 11,000 child soldiers in Colombia, according to rights groups. “Most of these have been recruited into illegal armed groups, but there are also cases of minors working with state security forces,” CSW added.
“We share the joy of our partners in Colombia at this development. The issue is particularly pressing in a country which has been torn by conflict for half a century,” said CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor.
“We congratulate the Colombian Supreme Court in taking the lead in recognizing the right to conscientious objection, and now call on armed groups to also respect the right of Colombians to refuse to participate in acts of violence because of their beliefs.”