by Karen Ashcraft
If I subscribe to any of the varieties of religious or spiritual doctrine available on the planet today, I have always had a difficulty with the concept of evil. I am the eternal Pollyanna. Polarities, positive vs. negative, black vs. white, yin vs. yang and eventually good vs. evil, somewhere in between, I know there is balance. I did not believe in evil until I was introduced to Joseph Kony, rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Preying on possibly the most disenfranchised lot on the face of the earth, African children, his reign, nearly 20 years of abduction and enslavery of upwards of 30,000, children has gone unchallenged. Jan Egeland, United Nations, Under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs, states that in his 25 years of crises worldwide, this is the most horrific. Joseph Kony should be included on the register of the world’s prime terrorists.
These youth of the Acholi people of northern Uganda are forced to perform horrific acts of brutality, even murdering parents as a perverse initiation to the cultish Lord’s Resistance Army. Captured and conscripted into the unholy existence of child soldiers, they are brainwashed by terror to believe in Kony’s supernatural strength. Forced to endure the torture of a messianic maniac, that has anointed himself as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, bent on a government based on his interpretation of the Ten Commandments, many children are mutilated and permanently damaged. Young girls, taken as sex slaves, bare children and AIDS. The Acholi people are determined to reclaim their stolen children. Is it possible that the only place they will ever again belong is some quasi militia that will perpetrate the same abuse and torture that is their reality? If this brutal abuse is not stopped are we ignoring the training of tomorrow’s terrorists?
Each night thousands of these children walk 6 to 8 miles into the nearest town to avoid being abducted from their villages. Gulu is one of these towns where hundreds of children find refuge in schools, churches, hospitals and simple awnings, piled together. Again the following morning they return home, some to school or daily tasks. This commute, a desperate struggle to survive, is dangerous and an unimaginable burden on their daily routines. These children speak perfect English, worry about their homework and have Christian names. These once Invisible Children are now becoming known as the Night Commuters or Night Walkers.
On October 22, 2005 cities worldwide walked. Inspired by the 31 day walk of two young Canadians, Adrian Bradbury and Kieren Hayward, the GuluWalk symbolized the plight of the Night Commuters. The Invisible Children organization, blossomed from the impact of an extraordinary film of the same title, inspired by a detour taken in northern Uganda by three young filmmakers from University of Southern California San Diego. Washington, DC based, Uganda-Conflict Action Network, founded by Peter Quaranto and Michael Poffenberger, is another grassroots network dedicated to ending Africa's longest civil war, waged on the tiny backs of children. These amazing students have been to northern Uganda and met these remarkably resilient children who have profoundly touched and changed their lives. They are the creators and catalyst for what is rapidly becoming an inspired movement.
Very young children maimed, limbs hacked off are left to survive, a life in the best of circumstances, often hopeless. What spiritual sense can be made of this, can any faith or belief system offer a reason, a positive spin? Are they some esoteric reference point, totally removed from our reality, an example of the most unfortunate point on the scale of good and evil? If we ignore this will our children be next? In October 2005, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Kony. In retaliation, relief workers near the border of Uganda and Sudan were attacked and killed. Today in Uganda 1.8 million people are suffering in Internally Displaced Persons camps where twice as many people die daily as in the more publicized Darfur region of Sudan. The violent LRA attacks threaten the very fragile peace in Darfur and neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the aftermath of two of the most devastating tragedies in America’s history, at some level we must know, as Americans, we are not entitled, immune to, or excluded from brutality or natural catastrophe that has long been the legacy of many regions of the world. Due to our relatively charmed lifestyles are we more unprepared to cope with suffering and human injustice, deployed on our home turf, than those less fortunate for whom the capacity to endure suffering is a daily reality? Remarkably, as shown by the generous offerings of relief, aid, donations and support there are unlimited resources of compassion. This compassion secures a future in a world that is evolving into a global community, a world where unnecessary violence & suffering regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs or social status cannot be tolerated or ignored.
Recently there has been attention on Capitol Hill regarding this Forgotten War. Several Senators are aware of the crisis and resolutions are being passed while people are dying! Let us insure that this is not just more political posturing and force our government along with the United Nations to take some action. Become aware, become involved. For more information visit www.Ugandacan.org, www.Invisiblechildren.com, www.GuluWalk.com.