"The rebels told me to join them, but I said no. Then they killed my little brother. I changed my mind" (quote from P.W. Singer's book, Children At War).
What if they came to our city, town or village, and took our children? What would we (as parents) do? If we lived in Northern Uganda the chances are good we would not be able to do much, if anything. When they came they would have not only taken our young boys and some girls, but also quite likely committed incredible, unspeakable atrocities on the rest of us.
In the United States (where such atrocities are unknown) photos of missing children started appearing on milk cartons in the 1970s. The U.S. also has a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as the Amber Alert program, designed to galvanize communities to help recover children who have been abducted.
There are no milk cartons or Amber Alerts for children abducted to become child soldiers. There are no posters with children's photos stapled to telephone poles. There are no photos at all; these are quite literally the "Invisible Children."
On Saturday, April 25th, tens of thousands of (young) people in 10 countries and 100 cities came together to shine a light on the Invisible Children in THE RESCUE of Joseph Kony's Child Soldiers. I participated (along with the Mount Si High School Amnesty International Club) in the Seattle "RESCUE", "an experiential event meant to simulate what life is like for the child soldiers abducted by Joseph Kony", and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
After our "abduction" we marched across the city roped together, finally arriving at the LRA camp where we set up camp and waited to be rescued. While waiting we wrote letters to our U.S. Senators and helped create a video that we hope members of the U.S. Congress will watch. A successful rescue required two things; "media coverage and the presence of a cultural leader or mogul." Late in the evening our camp was rescued.
Not every city was so fortunate. As we learned of our rescue sometime after 9pm, we were told that the camp in Spokane, Washington had not been rescued, so the Rescue Riders, people from our event, headed to Spokane to stand in solidarity with them and help in their rescue.
It is no wonder that this humanitarian topic is so invisible here in the U.S. when apparently the only media to cover the Seattle event was a newspaper from Tacoma, even as we sat (quite literally) in the shadow of the Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper building down at the waterfront.
This is an important story, and while it is partly a story about the inhumanity of a world that creates and perpetuates the atrocity of child soldiers, it is also a story of young people saying, "enough!" It is a story of hope created by young people coming together in their common humanity on behalf of those with no voice; those who have been invisible for far too long. Thanks to these young people's dedication, Joseph Kony's child soldiers will be invisible no more.
What can the rest of us do? Whether young or old, everyone can do something to help rescue the child soldiers. To start, check out the Invisible Children Website and support their efforts. If you don't know about the plight of child soldiers, learn about it. Look up "child soldiers" on the Web, or read P.W. Singer's book, CHILDREN AT WAR, a comprehensive look at the use of children as soldiers.
Knowledge makes us accountable. Hopefully, the efforts of "Invisible Children" will bring knowledge of the issue of child soldiers to millions of people around the world who then will pressure their governments to work together to support existing efforts to rescue the countless victims whose childhoods have been stolen, and bring the perpetrators to justice. Bringing justice is an important step along the way to peace. Help Rescue the Child Soldiers!
P.S. - In select "Rescue" cities around the world, signs from the list below were filmed, and will be combined into The Rescue Video that will be presented to the U.S. Congress. It is a powerful and positive manifesto. Here is the complete anthem.
THE RESCUE ANTHEM:
THERE ARE THOSE WHO EXPECT
THOSE WHO CAST THEIR VOTE
THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT GOOD
WILL TRIUMPH OF EVIL
WE ARE THOSE PEOPLE
WE ARE THE MASSES, MISFITS, MOGULS, MEDIA, MILLENNIALS
DOING WHAT WE CAN NOW
WITH WHAT WE HAVE
OUR IMPACT IS ONLY LIMITED
BY OUR WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE
WE ARE ABDUCTING OURSELVES
TO POSE THE QUESTION TO OUR LEADERS:
IS MY LIFE AS VALUABLE AS MINE?
WE ARE SHAPING HUMAN HISTORY
BY CLOSING THE DIVIDE BETWEEN
RESOURCES AND RESPONSIBILITY
DISTANCE AND DISINTEREST
AWARENESS AND ACTION
THIS IS ABOUT REDEFINING OUR ROLE IN THE WORLD
PUTTING PURPOSE BEFORE PROFIT
IT'S ABOUT ENDING THE LONGEST RUNNING WAR IN AFRICA
AND FINISHING WHAT WAS STARTED
WE ARE HERE TO AMPLIFY THE CHORUS OF THEIR CRIES
RESCUE JOSEPH KONY'S CHILD SOLDIERS
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