Today, June 20, 2017, is #RefugeeDay. By the end of 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated a total of 65,000,000 refugees around the world for various reasons from natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods and famine, to political turmoil, to civil wars and guerrilla warfare, to genocide. But right now, I would not have you focus on the global problems causing such exoduses around the world. I would rather draw your attention to the 65,000,000 detailed and horrific stories that could be told, the homes of the 65,000,000 that now lay abandoned or unjustly occupied, the 65,000,000 reasons why they simply had to flee to save themselves, their wives, their children, their brothers and sisters. Although I wish each story could be dutifully told, I will pick just one that I recently read on InvisibleChildren.com (you can read the complete story HERE).
Hannah, a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a terrorist organization in central Africa, when she was but eleven years old. During the next 8 years she spent her time foraging in the bush for the LRA and gave birth to two children, fathered by the commander to whom she was given upon her capture. Over the next 8 years, after three escape attempts, after giving one child away for a chance at freedom, and after years of abuse she escaped while pregnant with her third child.
Atrocities such as these are not uncommon, and they are not easily reconciled. Reconciliation: “to return to faith or harmony after a conflict”. Such a journey requires an obstacle course of wrongs to be forgiven, scars to which one must acclimate, an internal exploration of human goodness, and finally a rediscovery of self. To say the least, I never wish to negotiate such feelings and scars in my own life, but what I find most important is that refugees long for nothing but this opportunity, the opportunity to heal, the opportunity for a chance at life once again, the opportunity to find peace. Once given this opportunity, however, their is a piece to the puzzle any broken heart needs, and that is the faithful presence of another human being that cares, to accompany. To accompany someone in their struggles and in their suffering is the closest one can get to pure empathy.
As this is a blog for educators I will make this more real for my audience. There are refugees in all of our schools, whether a foreign refugee or a refugee fleeing an abusive environment. Whether we agree that refugees should be allowed into our country or not, I believe we can all agree on the responsibility we have to heal the broken hearted, to be the Samaritan that takes in his ethnic enemy, to accompany others in their sufferings so the burden might not be so heavy, and finally as a result give them the chance to rise to their feet once more.
I wrote the following article for an internship while I was a student at the University of Central Arkansas. Eight years later, as I reread the article, the message still rings true, and unfortunately the need to defend those temporarily debilitated still exists. As you read the article pay particular attention to the quote in the second to last paragraph from one of the Invisible Children members and how this maxim may still apply to you and to me: “We all share the same earth…We need to take care of each other.” I hope to see you soon on our own battleground, that I may accompany you in our fight for a better Earth.
Lastly, to bring the life of a refugee a little closer to home I’ve included a video created by the Save the Children Foundation. I’ll let the video speak for itself.
Marching for the Invisible
Written by Aaron Marvel
February 1, 2009
Guns and knives have often been the weapon of choice for many soldiers through time, but recently Harding and Hendrix university students have decided to raise their voices above the booms and clanks of the battle field to be seen amidst the still hazy gun powder of the Uganda and Congo landscape. These two groups of college students work under a larger organization called Invisible Children, which fights against the use of child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda.
The Ugandan civil war has been terrorizing the country since the early 1980’s. Peace talks have continuously failed because of the refusal to surrender by Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA. Hundreds of thousands have been removed from their homes and separated from their families, yet little has been done to aid the Ugandan government to end this restless war.
Invisible Children rose from nothing when three young California filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. They returned with a documentary showing the effects of a 20 year old ongoing war. The documentary has been seen by millions and the response is colossal. Small groups have sprung up around the world to raise awareness of the situation in Uganda. The Harding and Hendrix groups are among the combatants here in the U.S. fighting to free innocent children being forced to fight in the LRA regime. Their weapon of choice is a strong voice and their battle cry, “Spread the word!”
On April 25th at 3:00 p.m. fellow fighters throughout Arkansas will gather in Little Rock to raise awareness of the Ugandan war and to appeal for political action. Each person will bring three photographs of themselves with their family, friends, or guardians. A red circle will be placed around the owner of the photograph which will then be given to a volunteer at the designated “abduction site”. Then as a group all “abducted” people will march to the “LRA camp” where they will stay until at least one media outlet arrives to cover the event, and one cultural or political figure is present. While waiting at the camp each individual will create one art/photo project, write letters to political representatives, and seek out media attention. Invisible Children asks for all participants to stay as long as possible and even gives a list of supplies to bring for an overnight campout. Kayla Ross, a member of the Harding Invisible Children group hopes to have at least 1,000 students just from Harding. “If the event is a success in Little Rock, we will have a follow-up lobbying on June 22nd and June 23rd.”
On these dates Invisible Children plans to have Time Square reserved to host a conference that will report the results of each of The Rescues from around the world including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, and Ireland. Ross and other Invisible Children members hope to awaken the world before it’s too late. “The massacre in Rwanda, the Holocaust in Germany, Cambodia, etc. went unnoticed until hundreds had already been slaughtered… If we can bring this to the attention of the media and our political figures and show them what this means to us, we hope that it will bring about a change.”
Ross already expects Beth Moore, Christian book author and founder of Living Proof Ministries, to attend The Rescue and hopes for some political representatives from around Arkansas.
The Rescue is open to anyone with a passion to help others and to make a change in the world. For Ross and the other Invisible children members, this is hopefully a start to ending a 23 year old war. “We all share the same earth…We need to take care of each other.”
For more information about Invisible Children or The Rescue visit their website at http://www.invisiblechildren.com/marchhouseparty/graphics/The-Rescue-Manual.pdf or at Invisiblechildren.com.