Sunday, April 29, 2007

World: Displace Me in Solidarity with Uganda

The Displace Me event seeks to raise awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda where a civil war has raged for 21 years.

Here is a background report on the civil war.

Here is an item from PBS Newshour on the latest diplomatic efforts to resolve the civil war.

Displace Me rallies occurred in 15 cities in the United States. I went to the one in the Los Angeles area at the Pomona Fairplex and met up with some people from my church's youth group. Here is the event description on the Fairplex web page:
On April 28, Invisible Children will host a nationwide event called “Displace Me” to raise awareness about the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps and the effects of the 21-year war in Northern Uganda. Invisible Children is a media-based non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating youth around the world, creating lasting social change. The Fairplex is one of 15 locations across the U.S. that will bring together thousands of youth to imagine for 24 hours what it’s like to be one of the millions in Uganda who have been displaced due to the war. Say “Displace Me," and leave your home to bring them home. Everyone who comes to “Displace Me” will be asked to bring the following: enough cardboard to build something the size of a small tent, a sleeping bag, a 1.5-liter bottle of water (with an airtight seal, to be collected upon entry,) a box of Saltine crackers (yes, they need to be Saltines, with sealed packaging, also to be collected upon entry, and a current photo of yourself wearing a white t-shirt with a red X. Event hours are 3 p.m. Saturday - 10 a.m. Sunday.
In regard to the cause and scale of the displacement camps, quoting from Resolve Uganda:
The toll of this crisis has been massive, not only on the people of northern Uganda, but also on the surrounding region. The LRA is currently wreaking havoc in three countries, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, and causing widespread instability. The Ugandan government’s strategy of moving northerners into “protected villages” has turned into a displacement nightmare for 1.7 million people – over 80% of the region – who now live in squalid camps and lack access to basic resources. According to recent reports, 1,000 people are dying each week as a result of camp conditions. Again, children have been the primary victims. One-half of those displaced are under fifteen years of age and more than a third of boys and one-sixth of girls bear the scars of forced soldiering and sexual slavery in northern Uganda. For many years, upwards up 40,000 of these children “commuted” up to two hours every night to sleep on town streets to avoid abduction.
The Invisible Children movement of which Displace Me is one event was started by three young filmmakers from California who went to Uganda in 2003 and produced the documentary, Invisible Children: Rough Cut.

They decided to spread the story with modern media technologies and to mobilize people to take action by donating to relief work in Uganda and exerting political pressure for a resolution of the crisis. The rallies in 15 cities provided the organizers opportunities for speakers to share about what is happening in Uganda and to show videos to further educate and motivate the participants to take whatever action they can to bring relief and peace to the troubled region.

The large size of the events draw media coverage allowing the message to spread further. Here is a Kansas City Star feature story of the Displace Me rally in Kansas City.

The event even caught the attention of the White House as each of the 15 locations saw a video message from First Lady Laura Bush commending the activism of the youthful movement and describing some of the initiatives pertaining to Africa the Bush Administration has taken.

Probably one of the most moving moments at the event was the 21 minutes of silence to recognize that the civil war has raged for 21 years. The speaker encouraged the participants to be silent and reflect on the situation and what one wants to do about it and to pray for Uganda and all involved if they were inclined to prayer.

For me, during that time, the images of the suffering children from the videos would float in my mind and I would ask God to help people in the region and around the world to do whatever they can to bring peace, healing and justice to that trouble region. As I prayed, I could not help but think of other troubled places in the world where death and suffering is caused by war. Our hearts were both angered and saddened as we contemplated how much sorrow there is in those places and we resolved to do something about it.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here is a feature story on the event on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

At the moment, there is a ceasefire in Uganda and negotiations are taking place. Camp residents are cautious but hopeful.

Wouldn't it be something if sometime over the year, the war came to an end and the people can go home to the countryside without fear and displacement camps will be no more?

Let's pray and work to make it so!



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