Today there are 20 million children around the world who have been uprooted, orphaned, or injured by war, famine, and poverty. In the 1990s two million children died as a result of war and communal violence. We see their faces on the nightly news or staring at us from the pages of a magazine, but rarely, if ever, do we see them as more than helpless victims––they are innocent; they are suffering; they demand sympathy, outrage, or action.
But the reality of these children's lives is far more complex. They are singers, dancers, survivors, criminals, workers, parents, activists, athletes, soldiers, and killers. They have political points of view, and they have moral universes with as much complexity as the conflicts that surround them. In modern warfare, children are protagonists, for good or ill.
As a young man in his early 20s, Charles London was given the rare opportunity––as a Research Associate for Refugees International––to live with and work with these children, and in ONE DAY THE SOLDIERS CAME, he enters their world, celebrating their unique skills for survival and reflection. Through the stories and drawings of children from Congo, Burma, Kosovo, Sudan, and Rwanda––the sites of some of the most violent upheavals of the past decade––we see the invisible narrative of the young as they experience, understand, and are shaped by the conflicts around them. These stories are sometimes painful, sometimes triumphant, sometimes funny, and sometimes terrifying. In that regard, they represent an accurate picture of war and are a valuable alternative to the politically–charged rhetoric we are given in our news reports. As a saying in East Africa goes, "When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." This book is an account of the fighting from the grass's point of view––how it is crushed, but how it keeps growing.