LOUISVILLE (PNS) – Princeton Abaraoha was a carefree 13-year-old boy when he was snatched by soldiers and taken to a military training camp. Two weeks later, he was carrying a gun as a soldier in Nigeria’s civil war.
“I was going to fetch water for my mom when they grabbed me, and I didn’t see my family again for two and a half years,” he said. The secessionist state of Biafra had conscripted him for service in its unsuccessful war to gain independence from Nigeria during the 1960s.
As the war in Nigeria progressed, Abaraoha was trained as a munitions and explosive device specialist. One hot sunny afternoon, his unit came under heavy fire and an unexploded rocket that landed nearby. While Abaraoha attempted to diffuse it, the rocket denotated, and he sustained multiple wounds.
He endured six surgeries without anesthesia over the next year and a half. He came home at age 17 and started high school, but his wartime experience left him angry and rebellious. Abaraoha drank heavily, and he says that many considered him a “terror to society.”
His life changed, however, after professing his Christian faith for the first time at the Anglican high school he attended. “My mom said God changed a heart of stone into a heart of flesh,” Abaraoha said.
Eventually, Abaraoha came to the U.S. to attend college and sensed a call to ministry. Today he is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Midlothian, Texas, and serves the national church as field staff for the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Intercultural Ministries.
While Abaraoha’s story has a happy ending, there are many children whose lives will not. Unfortunately, the use of child soldiers continues today. UNICEF estimates that tens of thousands of children worldwide are fighting in armed conflicts.
Abaraoha says using child soldiers is “an evil that we need to exterminate, and we need to call attention to any system that supports this evil.” Peace & Global Witness Offering gifts help the Presbyterian Mission Agency do just that.