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Religious figures call for change in army enlistment age

The Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, Quakers and peace groups within the Methodist, Baptist and Catholic churches are calling on the Ministry of Defence to stop enlisting army recruits at the age of 16. In an open letter, organised by human rights group Child Soldiers International, they say only adults should be free to join the armed forces because they believe those recruited at 16 faced double the risk of being killed as adult recruits during the war in Afghanistan. The document goes on to say a change would be a fitting memorial to all those recruited as minors who've been injured or have died while serving their country. The UK is just one of twenty countries across the world that has a minimum voluntary recruitment age of 16 years-old.

Rt Revd John Davies is the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.

He tells Premier's Marcus Jones why all the bishops in the Church in Wales added their name to the letter: 

The call from the church leaders comes just weeks after a report by Forces Watch found younger soldiers are more likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study called for the policy of recruiting from age 16 to be reviewed so that the greatest burden of risk is not left to the youngest. Speaking to Premier at the time, retired Major General and Ex-President of the Armed Forces Christian Union, Tim Cross told Premier it's a complex issue. 

The MoD says it has no plans to change the age structure as those who join receive the benefits of training and education and aren't sent straight into conflict areas. Meanwhile, Christians are being encouraged to pray for the troops that have arrived in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.  Many will stay for nine months, but some will leave earlier as the force rapidly scales back.

The Armed Forces' Christian Union has released this prayer: "Please pray for these troops that the draw down will be peaceful and safe. Please pray against attacks from the Taliban which might hinder this process. Please pray for the families who are facing a long nine month separation from their loved ones, and especially for the children who are fearful of Daddy being away."

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