From The Tidings Online, Southern California’s Catholic Weekly, comes a story about Sister Pauline, who works in Catholic Relief Services’ office in Gulu, Uganda. CRS Uganda has been working for many years with war-affected communities in the north. Sister Pauline has driven our conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts, and has worked with partners to reintegrate children abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army back into their home communities. Here is her story, from The Tidings Online.
Sister Pauline Acayo Helps Uganda’s Former
Child Soldiers and Sex Slaves Heal and Find Peace
By Rober Dellinger
Most of the world found out about the horrors inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army on March 5, when a 30-minute video titled “KONY 2012” posted on YouTube went viral, being viewed more than 100 million times in just 10 days. In graphic detail the video documented the horrific exploits of cult and military leader Joseph Kony, who claims to be not only the spokesperson of God but also a medium to 13 spirits.
The rebel LRA has been responsible for the displacement of two million people and the death of more than 100,000 civilians during the 23-year-long civil war, which officially ended in 2009. But it’s their kidnapping and brainwashing of child soldiers and adolescent female sex slaves through torture, starvation and rape that grabbed the attention of George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities.
None of this, however, was news to Sister Pauline Acayo, who was just 15 when she joined the Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate in Gulu, the northern district of Uganda. After earning a bachelor’s degree in education and then a master’s in religion in Rome, she returned home in 1998 to teach at a local high school and also work for Catholic Relief Services.
It was a time when Gulu was exploding in conflict with local massacres. Some children were also escaping from their LRA captors, but were too emotionally and physically scarred to fit back into their villages.
“What prompted me to work with these children is because my family had been affected. Four of my siblings were abducted from home, with two of my brothers killed,” Sister Acayo told The Tidings midway through a speaking tour last month to mostly Catholic high schools in Southern California. “And then seeing these children coming back home; they wanted to come back to school, but they were traumatized.
“They were so traumatized simply because they were made to kill people, sometimes by chopping them into pieces with machetes. Others were forced to carry dead bodies on their backs for one week to indoctrinate them. And then some of them were made to wash their hands with blood and eat their victims’ flesh.
“And girls were kidnapped to be used as sex slaves for LRA’s leaders,” she reported.