Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

The half-hour video recently put out by Invisible Children underscores the LRA’s grisly atrocities, which include the murder, rape, and abduction of tens of thousands of people over the past two decades. According to Invisible Children, a San Diego-based NGO that launched the campaign, the purpose of the video was to make Joseph Kony famous. Not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest.

Celebrities were quick to chime in and voice their support using the hash-tag #STOPKONY, but the tide soon changed. The campaign’s new-found attention was quickly accompanied by criticisms of the Invisible Children organization, including its aid-spending practices, and a controversial photo of the NGO’s members posing with guns.

Poor spending practices?

The blog Visible Children claims that the NGO spends less on “direct services” than it does on transportation and compensation costs. “The bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and film-making,” the blog notes.

Despite these criticisms, the film successfully underscores the grisly killings, abductions, and rapes committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony’s alleged crimes are undoubtedly horrific, and, as Ishaan Tharoor puts it in Time Magazine, “It’d be churlish to rebuke Invisible Children for wanting to help those afflicted overseas, while moving tens of thousands of previously apathetic Americans at home.”

A child abductee named Jacob Acaye, who also recently spoke out in support of the Kony 2012 video. “Until now, the war that was going on has been a silent war. People did not really know about it,”

Invisible Children posted rebuttals to the criticism on its website, saying that it has spent about 80 percent of its funds on programs that further its mission, about 16 percent on administration and management, and about 3 percent on fundraising. The group said its accountability and transparency score is currently low because it has four independent voting members on its board of directors and not five, but that it is seeking to add a fifth.

Many Americans use these criticisms as an excuse not to help in a campaign that is worlds away from their own comfortable society, stating the fact that only a portion of the money donated to Invisible Children goes directly to help the children of Uganda. But isn’t a portion better than nothing?

There will always be those who use tragedies and hardships for financial gain — Even in our own country. (Remember Hurricane Katrina?) But I try to look past the bad intentions of the few to see the good work of the many. I think the Apostle Paul said it best when he wrote:   “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” (Phil. 1:15-18)

In spite of all the criticisms of Invisible Children, millions of Americans are now aware of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the LRA. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Because we live in a country that is free from these types of atrocities most Americans have a hard time comprehending what it’s like to live in such dire situations. To us it’s much easier to ignore the problem or ease our guilt by telling ourselves that it doesn’t concern us.

I have to confess that before viewing the Kony 2012 video I too, refused to acknowledge what has been happening in Uganda. Sure, I had seen a few vague news reports but I was so busy with my own world — making sure I had enough money to pay for my mortgage, my cable bill, my computer and cell phone. Besides all of that, I had to keep all of my websites and blogs updated and perform all of my husbandly duties.

My apathy is worse because I personally know those who have been spurred to purposely leave their comfort zone for a greater good. I have a friend who made the decision to leave her comfort zone in Omaha, Ne. and travel to a land she knew very little about simply because she believed that God had called her to minister to the people in Uganda. And until recently I don’t remember ever asking her any details about her missionary work there. Thankfully, when I emailed her she was more than willing to share information. Below are some excerpts from her blog during her time in Uganda:


January 19, 2010

While reading Luke 9 this morning, I was drawn to the verses that talk about Jesus “setting his face” towards Jerusalem. Isaiah 50:7 refers to setting a face like flint. It reminded me of the times when I actually have that same sense and I know the Lord has called me to do something outside my normal pattern, my comfort zone.

When the “flinty face” happens, my understanding has grown that it is God’s way of telling me I’m headed into a tough situation or onto an unfamiliar path and I must not let fear, or other interfering emotions, deter me from “following my face.”

Two examples:

Six years ago He laid it on me big time to go to Soroti, Uganda, to help in the rebel/IDP situation. I felt very insecure at first. Not the “going”, because I’m nearly always ready and willing to do that, but having no idea how I could help in a war zone; I’m definitely not a medical person, which was the obvious need. From the beginning of the “call” — so intense and specific — I could, at certain times, feel my face becoming “flinty”. Occasionally during the stretch between the “call” in early September, until my arrival in Uganda in mid-November, if someone told me they disapproved of what I was planning and they didn’t believe I’d heard correctly, I felt my face tighten and harden … and it wasn’t because I was torqued at the person who was challenging me. It was simply because the Lord was making sure I didn’t let anything, or anyone, interfere with His instructions.

When I reached Uganda, while resting and prepping and hanging out with my many Ugandan family and friends at a ministry location, a hundred miles or so from Soroti, one of the organization’s leaders told me I seemed “too determined” and he couldn’t guarantee they would help me or allow me to help them. While he was talking to me, I felt my face tighten, and I, basically, told him whether they approved or not, I was going because that was what God had called me to do — Period. He said I was being too inflexible, but I knew “flint” doesn’t flex. Within a few days he had “caved” to my desires and for part of my time, I did work with and for them. My time in Soroti was one of the hardest — if not THE hardest — ministry stretches I’ve ever faced, even though I met many wonderful pastors, international aid workers, and locals. I returned home in mid-February and was in emotional and physical recovery for several months. However, not once did I question whether I was in the right place at the right time. [And, thankfully, neither did my dear husband, who had to walk through the pre-, actual, and post- results of the “call.”]


March 17, 2010

Several years ago when I was in Soroti, Uganda, to help with the IDP situation after the LRA rebels had invaded the general area a few months earlier, I went to the local rescued children’s camp to interview some of the kids. Out of the hundreds that were there, even though I was able to touch and bless many, many of them, I only interviewed about 20 during the visits — and not one of those were “rescued” [as the camp was named] … instead, each one had escaped, sometimes during very dangerous times, such as cross-fire between the rebels and the army/local militia, or  were abandoned by the rebels because their legs or feet were damaged and they were no longer able to carry the heavy loads. They were left to die and had no food, water; miraculously they were found within a few days and survived. Some escaped simply by walking off when the rebels were distracted. Most stories made me cry or scream [which I did when I returned to the ministry compound where I was staying] and some made me want to laugh, simply because of the way God had opened a door for them to walk through.


June 19, 2010

Christine, 15, was abducted June 20th. The rebels abducted 4 children from her family at different times. She was the first. Sitting at home, they called her to come and help carry food — they never let her return home. Her three brothers – ages 9, 13, and 19 were abducted later; the 13 and 19 year olds had escaped, but the 9 year old was still in the “bush”. Her parents had moved from their home to an IDP camp for safety purposes.

Sometimes rebel groups had as few as 7 rebels and 10 children. Her group, however, had more than 150 rebels and 100 children. These differences were determined by how the many villages and how much food were accessible in various locations.

She said she carried so much – firewood, food, all the camp stuff. She was given as “wife” to a 27-year old man, who had 2 other wives, one of whom was pregnant. The three of them mistreated her by beating her and not giving her food. [She never mentioned the fact that as a “wife” she was a “sex slave” … this was an “understood.”]

There was a gun battle between the rebels and the UPDF [the Ugandan Army]; everyone scattered out of the crossfire — she escaped.

An abductee for only about 6 weeks, she had been in this rescued children’s camp since August 5th. She couldn’t go to the IDP camp and be with her parents, because one of the actions of the rebels was to re-capture those who had escaped, if possible, and then kill them in front of others as an object lesson. Staying in this safe and protected children’s camp was what she had to do.

As we ended our conversation, using a translator for her Teso language, I suddenly asked something I would never have thought of. “If you could meet with these rebels what would you do?” Her answer overwhelmed me.

“I would forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Later that day, when I was back in the YWAM compound with my co-worker, Jill, I was furious, saddened beyond belief, and emotionally extreme. I was crying and screaming at times as I recalled holding their hands and praying for them, touching them and asking blessings on them… and knowing what these kids had gone through, seeing their scars, their sorrow, their fear, their anger… and feeling how tepid or lukewarm or useless were those touchings/ blessings UNLESS the Holy Spirit would use it to bring some aspect of healing, which I won’t know until Heaven.

I was especially touched by, and have always been touched by, Christine’s response. When I think of her I wonder how she is. She obviously had not become pregnant by her “husband”, but did she become an HIV victim? If so, has anyone stepped up for her need? Was she able to finish school? Even though I saw her for only 15 minutes, I love this girl and use her so often as an example of what we need to remember, because very often it is the absolute, certain truth, even of the so-called wise ones or intelligentsia that surrounds us:

“I would forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”


October 23, 2010 I met Jill nearly 7 years ago. The Lord had sent me over to Uganda to help in the town of Soroti — He hadn’t told me HOW I was going to help, just that I WAS — and my first stop was at the orphanage north of Kampala where Dave and I had worked, where our “son”, Sam, and his/”our” wife and daughter lived, so I could get myself focused and organized.

Jill was dropped into my life in a funny way. I was staying with another British lady at the orphanage and they watched Britcom videos on Saturday evening. Jill and I laughed just as loudly and at the same time and we just hit it off.

I was leaving for Soroti on December 3rd, and she was allowed to go with me. Quickly it became obvious we were either going to be friends or enemies by the time the jaunt up there was passed before the Christmas break — we slept in the same bed most of the time, worked together all day in a small office, and had very little time apart.

We both saw and heard horrific stories at the Rescued Children’s Camp, and we reacted differently… after hearing the stories and returning to the YWAM compound where we were staying, she pulled the sorrow into her heart and walked in silence; I cried, screamed, slammed walls.

She pushed me to pursue the needs of a young girl who was caring for her brother in the local hospital. I had become so tired and stressed from the various heavy experiences, that the “one more step” was almost beyond me. Between her desire to take the step and the Lord pushing me, it was done … and the girl, an orphan whose brother died the day after we stepped in to help, is now 18, and is my granddaughter.

A few months after my return home, a young woman Jill had been caring for who had been struggling with cancer, died, and Jill crashed. Her church arranged for her to return to Worcester for a few weeks so she could rest and gain her strength back.

In Conclusion:

Because we were not aware of their suffering, we used to be able to use that as an excuse for not helping less fortunate people in the world. But with the advent of the internet and social media sites we can no longer ignore the pain that exists outside of our comfort zones. The harsh realities of poverty, starvation, disease and civil war should be more evident to those of us who live in a privileged country like the United States.

It frightens us to come to terms with suffering in the world. It also raises the question of exactly how much the suffering of other countries and the failing of their own governments becomes our responsibility as an affluent nation.

That’s when we should remember Christine who had been abducted for 6 weeks, beaten, and abused in ways we can’t imagine before being rescued at the children’s camp. And we need to remember how she answered when asked, “If you could meet with these rebels what would you do?”

“I would forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”



The holocaust had been reported to American and European officials as early as 1936. But the world didn’t really know what was occurring. That’s the way it works with a regime. Information doesn’t get in or out. The rest of the world simply knew that Nazi Germany was fighting other nations. When tales of the Holocaust did get out, it sounded so horrifying that people didn’t believe it could be possible. America thought it was just another European war and was none of our business. That’s why America stayed out of it for so long.

The same thing has been happening in Uganda for over 20 years now. It wasn’t until October of 2011 that President Obama authorized the deployment to Uganda of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to help regional forces “remove from the battlefield” – meaning capture or kill – Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and senior leaders of the LRA.

The Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.  Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival.  It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts.  By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.  Even so, many Americans are still unaware of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the LRA.

But not all remain unaware.  In the spring of 2003, three filmmakers, Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole, traveled to Africa to document the genocide that was occurring in Darfur. Instead, they stumbled upon a little-known war that originated in northern Uganda in 1987, making it Africa’s second longest-running war after the Eritrean Revolutionary War. They produced a documentary about the children being abducted and turned into child soldiers by Joseph Kony and the LRA.

In November 2011, a Foreign Affairs article reproached Invisible Children and some of its partner organizations for manipulating facts for strategic purposes and exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders. And yet, Charity Navigator, a non-profit organization dedicated to intelligent giving gave Invisible Children three out of four stars and a rating of 51.52 out of a possible score of 70. Charity Navigator currently ranks Invisible Children two stars for accountability and transparency, and four stars financially.

If nothing else, Invisible Children has raised a loud voice against the injustice in Uganda. And its voice is spreading across the Internet. It has one goal in mind: Make Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of the violent Lord’s Resistance Army “famous” so he can be brought to justice.

The campaign may be working. #StopKony has been trending worldwide on Twitter since Tuesday, and as of this writing, the video “Kony2012” has almost two million views on YouTube.

On April 20, Invisible Children is calling on its supporters to stop Kony and the LRA’s campaign once and for all — by using the social media and viral tactics that have made “Kony2012” so widespread.

“This is the day when we will meet at sundown and blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up,” Jason Russell, who directed the film for Invisible Children, said in a statement. “The rest of the world will go to bed Friday night and wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters demanding justice.”

I encourage people of all faiths to let your voice be heard and to pray that God will bring and end to these atrocities.