Thursday, March 08, 2012
#Kony2012: Who are the real Peacemakers of Northern Uganda?
Several years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Reverend Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola, a retired minister and community activist working in his home community of Kitgum, Uganda.
Kitgum is an area of Uganda heavily affected by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Bishop Ochola was responsible for the spiritual care of a people ignored for years by their own government, their neighbours, and to our shame, the world at large.
On a personal level, Bishop Ochola is a man who has suffered greatly. His daughter, Joyce, was brutally gangraped by the LRA.
And in Uganda, especially in rural areas, rape is incredibly stigmatizing. Bishop Ochola’s daughter felt like she couldn’t live with herself, and she took her own life shortly thereafter.
But that's not all.
A few years later, Bishop Ochola's dear wife Winifred was also killed by the LRA.
If anyone has the moral authority to say that the entire LRA should be killed, it is Bishop Ochola.
But the reason I was interviewing him at the time was because he actually wears this little red button that says “To Remember is to Work for Peace.”
For Bishop Ochola, the best way to honour the memory of his wife and daughter isn’t by perpetuating a cycle of violence.
Bishop Ochola believes that at their heart, all religions in Uganda share the same fundamental belief in the power of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliaton. He is one of the founding members of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), a group made up of leaders from different faith groups (including both Christian and Muslim) in Northern Uganda who have united together to work for reconciliation in their communities.(Acholi is the name of the main ethnic group living in Kitgum).
“ARLPI is an interfaith organization that works for peace and development by transforming violent conflict through dialogue, negotiation, meditation and reconciliation in order to promote sustainable peacebuilding and development in Northern Uganda.”
The ARLPI don’t look at the LRA and simply see plain evil. They see their own children—their own babies.
You see, one of Joseph Kony’s tactics toward achieving his screwed up agenda is to recruit child soldiers, then forcing them to commit atrocities against their home communities.
The aim this is to make it impossible for them to ever return home, thereby guaranteeing himself an army.
What happens when your children become your enemies?
The message that Bishop Ochola bring to the LRA is akin to this:
No matter what atrocities you have committed, we will still love you. You are our children. Come home, and we will forgive you.
You have killed my wife, you have killed my family. But you are our children, this is our community, and we will do what it takes to build a better peace.
It’s powerful stuff.
And it’s what just might be at the root of lasting, sustainable change.
ARLPI was officially formed in 1997 by people who were part of the Northern Uganda community long before anyone else cared. They are examples of the people who will be there when #KONY2012 hype dies away.
Yes, Joseph Kony is insane. And again, it is to our shame that he has been able to inflict terror for as long as he has.
But it is also our shame that it takes a snazzy video to make us care.
People wiser than I (and with more time on their hands) have already written good articles explaining why #Kony2012 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t want to get into that on my blog. Instead, here is a favourite from How Matters: Bad Guys, Good Guys, and the people in between.
Think carefully and do research about the charities and causes to which you choose to support.