I’m sad this picture came out blurry, but if winter light is hard, Boston winter light is the hardest, and I’m just grateful I have a record of meeting my new Sister, Lina.
Lina is Ugandan and a tireless, heroic, advocate for peace and security and opportunities for women. Her country has been tortured by dictators for longer than I’ve been alive, first with the notorious Idi Amin, and then by Joseph Kony, a rebel leader who calls his army the Lord’s Liberation Army and has led a civil war against the Ugandan government, first motivated by ethnic conflicts and now by just his madness and lust for power, for the last 20 years.
You have probably been hearing in the media about the atrocities happening in Darfur. Ethnic cleansing, child soldiers, women kidnapped and used as sex slaves. Darfur is in Sudan, a bordering country to Uganda, and Joseph Kony has had training and support by forces in Sudan. What is happening in Darfur is happening in Northern Uganda, but without as much attention.
Currently a tentative peace has been made, Kony is hiding in Congo, the country neighboring Uganda on the other side, and now aid groups can come to Uganda to support the victims he has left behind.
This is my other new sister, Judy. Judy is a well-known human rights advocate and professor working in the field of international development. She has traveled the world and seen that women are so often left behind in peace building.
She traveled to Uganda with her college students in an effort to rebuild homes destroyed in war, and what she found galvanized her to action.
Sexual assault is so common here in the US, that chances are good that if you haven’t been assaulted, someone close to you has, so think about what that person has been through. Think about the emotional toll assault has taken on them, the shame, the loss of self-worth, the physical healing, maybe eating disorders, suicide attempts or other evidence of psychological trauma.
Now imagine feeling all that in an area where you are lucky if you have a home. Where you suffer from the effects of poverty, your family has been killed, and you have been cast out by your community for fear that the man who assaulted you will punish them. You are alone, raising several children who were conceived by rape, and you are no more than 25 years old.
I watched the video interview of one woman who had been kidnapped at 10 years old and made one of Joseph Kony’s “wives,” her childhood literally stolen. During the years she should have been in school learning to read and write, she was in the African bush being tortured by a madman. She is now raising the children she bore as a child in the wilderness, and struggling to find peace and security. I saw other people, survivors and former child soldiers, overcoming the worst atrocities human beings can inflict on one another, their faces bearing witness to the horrors of what they had lived through.
I was so moved by what I saw, I couldn’t sit still. I could not look at that woman and explain to her that I was too busy to help because I hadn’t vacuumed that week. We don’t all have the opportunity to get deeply involved in this cause, but when the opportunity came to me, I could not walk away from it.
I’ve since come to believe that this is part of the work the Lord has for me to do. With less than a week’s notice I managed to arrange a nearly week-long cross country trip with just two phone calls. Everything fell into place miraculously. After my week in Boston meeting with the board, it became plain that the skills I have are what they needed. Not just my OCD organizing skills and web experience, but even my crafting as we come up with items these women can make that would sell here in the states.
I have a lot more work ahead of me, but I think this will also give me the perspective I need. I think I’ll be able to stop beating myself up for something like the state of my yard when I’m working towards something so very important.