Monday, March 12, 2012

Kony 2012 - Helpful or Hurtful?

When our family traveled to Uganda, Africa in 2005, we learned about the Lord's Resistance Army ("LRA") and their victimization of children in northern Uganda. What we heard tore at our hearts. Later that year, we watched a documentary: "Invisible Children - Rough Cut." That video communicated the crisis facing the children of northern Uganda who live in constant fear of Joseph Kony - leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

I recently read the book, "Not For Sale" where David Batstone profiles abolitionists around the world who are leading the charge against human trafficking. In its pages, I was once again confronted with the travesty in northern Uganda. In 1986, Joseph Kony started a rebellion against the current government in Uganda. He  populates his army through the kidnapping and victimization of boys. Under torture and threat of death, these boys are forced to become murderers, mutilators, and child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army. Many are made to kill their own parents. Innocent girls are also kidnapped, abused (some mutilated), raped, and forced to become sex slaves. Some human rights groups estimate there may be as many as 66,000 youth who have been taken captive. Here are some facts from Batstone's book:

1) The LRA teaches males to view women as creatures that exist to serve their sexual pleasures. A commander may have four or five concubines. It has been reported that Joseph Kony has as many as 60 young sex slaves. Young men are taught to handle women violently when they do not submit to a male. One ex-slave watched Kony order the murder of two young commanders because they were too nice to their concubines.

2) Another segment of the book tells the story of three young girls who escaped the LRA during a raid by the national army. The girls walked into World Vision's children-of-war camp in Gulu with heads completely shaved, emaciated, and an empty gaze in their eyes.  One of the girls had been forced to carry a boiling pot on her head causing a severe burn that exposed part of her skull.  

3) A female victim named Mary recalls watching LRA soldiers viciously hack away at five of her friends with machetes. They spared Mary because she was pregnant and they feared it might bring them bad luck. So instead of killing her, two boys held her down while a third boy cut off her nose, lips, and ears - a signature torture of the LRA.

This week my oldest son called me from college to tell me about a video (and a movement) that's gone viral on the internet. 

 I put off watching it until I could set aside time to watch the full 30-minute video. Several days later, my youngest son told me about the same video. He'd just discovered it and passionately urged me to watch it. I did and it's powerful. "Kony 2012" is a movement that provides some very practical and doable ways to combat the evil of Joseph Kony. But the history of Uganda is complex and there have been some legitimate criticisms.  

And Invisible Children has responded.

Whether or not you believe the Kony 2012 movement is helpful or hurtful, one thing is certain. Joseph Kony's reign of terror is very real. He has damaged and terrorized far too many within Uganda and beyond. He needs to be brought to account - and precious children need to be rescued and rehabilitated. 

Lisa ~

Organizations like Watoto Child Care Ministries are working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. I'm sure they could use your support. :)