Many in the United States are learning about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army through an internet video that has attracted tens of millions of views. Catholic Relief Services has been working for years to help the victims of Kony and the LRA.
CRS officially opened an office in Uganda’s capital Kampala, Uganda, in 1996 to help those displaced by LRA actions. Working with the Church, CRS began providing assistance to children known as the Night Commuters. These youngsters would walk from their rural villages every evening, seeking safety in larger towns in northern Uganda where they would often shelter at Churches in order to escape the threat of abduction by the LRA.
Although northern Uganda is no longer affected directly by the LRA, CRS and the Church continue work to reconcile former LRA child soldiers with their communities, reintegrating them back into society.
One of the heroines of this effort is Sr. Pauline Acayo, CRS’ Head of Office in Gulu in northern Uganda. In 2010 she received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the International Development Committee of the Association for Conflict Resolution.Sister Pauline’s work was highlighted in a Catholic Review article last year.
As the LRA has left Uganda, much of its impact is now felt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where CRS is working with Church and local partners to serve affected communities. LRA activities have had substantial economic effects on communities in the DRC, disrupting farming as families were afraid to work in their fields because of frequent LRA attacks and abductions. Through the OFDA, CRS and Caritas Dungu-Doruma are working to help these communities recover, sponsoring seed and tool kit distributions, training on improved agricultural techniques, and the development of community protection plans.
In recent years, the LRA has moved into South Sudan, a huge setback to communities that were just beginning to recover from decades of civil war. There CRS has supported the efforts of Bishop Eduardo Hiboro, of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio to help these communities, including sponsoring a visit by the bishop to the United States in 2010 where he raised awareness of LRA activities on Capitol Hill, at the United Nations and in the Catholic community of the United States.
Here are some of the CRS resources on our work in northern Uganda:
Sister helps bring peace to former child soldiers in Uganda: Article on Sr. Pauline Acayo of CRS Uganda who helps to reintegrate former child solders of the LRA back into society, helping them to seek forgiveness for atrocities they’ve committed.
Ugandan Peacebuilder Receives Outstanding Leadership Award: Sr. Pauline Acayo is recognized for her work.
Raw Faith and Reckless Devotion: A man captured and tortured by the LRA escaped and now serves as a catechist in South Sudan.
The Baltimore Sun: Seeking Redemption, by G. Jefferson Price III: Ex-child soldiers forced to fight in Northern Uganda’s civil war return home and seek forgiveness in the Acholi tribe’s ancient cleansing tradition.